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Our blog's first review of a graphic novel! Coooool! What is also cool is that this is our second review of a writer who works with Biblioasis (a Canadian publication based out of Windsor, Ontario), with the first being Meg's review of our friend Dave's Peninsula Sinking which you can read . So Biblioasis, if you're reading, we are ready for a full-time partnership lol.

I have read a few graphic novels over the years. Like a lot of people I jumped on the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World train and borrowed all six volumes after seeing the movie by Edgar Wright. From there my only other experience with a graphic novel is My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf which doubles as a memoir. My Friend Dahmer is about Backderf's high school friendship with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. It was well illustrated and well told. But again, it was my first real experience reading a story in this format.

Essentially what I'm trying to say is that I have SOME experience reading graphic novels, but don't devote my bookshelf to them. So I'll be reviewing The Case of the Missing Men with this limited amount of knowledge about what makes a strong graphic novel, or how it would compare to others.


The Case of the Missing Men is written by Kris Bertin and illustrated by Alexander Forbes. My friend Kurtis sent me this book to review, and I was excited by the opportunity because I love to check out projects by people from the Maritimes (Bertin grew up in Lincoln, New Brunswick, but is now based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.)

So I was offered the book by Kurtis, intrigued by the local-ish connection, but really sold by the first line on the back summary: "Nancy Drew meets David Lynch in this mystery thriller set in a remote and eerie east-coast village." My boyfriend has been watching the return of Twin Peaks and I've also been binging a lot of Riverdale so it felt like the perfect time to give it a go.


The Case of the Missing Men is set in a small town in Nova Scotia and focuses on a group of high school students whose extracurricular is their detective club. A newcomer named Sam shows up and the club decides to work with him to find his missing father. Other men have gone missing in Hobtown, but things start to escalate quickly when the lunch lady is murdered.

From here things get weird.. the perpetrators are dead-eyed and zombie-like, but also act a lot like dogs. I am not going to go too much into plot because this is a mystery comic. The book's spine actually has a "1" on it indicating that there will be more Hobtown Mystery Stories to come.

The illustrations of these men are super creepy, and it was interesting to read something where you don't rely on written physical descriptions. This is one of the things I enjoyed most about the book. My favourite scene was when the detective club was working together but their group was shown through a set of binoculars, indicating that they were being watched by someone unknown:

This is what's cool about graphic novels. A lot of the time you get your feeling mystery from the illustration. Bertin doesn't have to write anything during this scene to set an air of unease because Forbes' illustration already sets the tone.

This is a fairly serious mystery in that you feel like there are real consequences for the characters... unlike Nancy Drew you don't know if they are going to make it out in one piece. But Bertin never takes it too seriously. There is plenty of opportunity for comic relief and this is usually done through two high school jocks who are part of the club.

All-in-all, you don't need to have a huge collection of graphic novels in order to be interested in The Case of the Missing Men. It's easy enough to follow along and the illustrations are really lovely. If you are interested in supporting local writers and illustrators, give it a go!






Last valentines day we posted and we decided this year to be less cynical and a little less bitter. Neither of us are mushy people but we're big suckers for any book with a complex relationship. Here are our favourite ten 'literary' couples. Comment your favourite below!!



This is definitely my favourite fictional romance from any of the books I've read. I love it because they are written in such a classic Joan Didion way ... so subtle that you'd almost not notice it. Elena is working on "one last job" for her father to get him out of trouble. Treat is the official working on her case. There aren't any love scenes and there aren't any declarations of love. It's not until the end that Didion writes:

'I read you too,' she said. Of course she did, of course he did. Of course they read each other. Of course they knew each other, understood each other, recognized each other, took one look and got each other, had to be with each other, saw the color drain out of what they saw when they were not looking at each other. They were the same person. They were equally remote."

God I am not a sap, but that is easily the most romantic passage I've ever read.











If you've been following this blog at all you'll know I think this is the most devastating love story that has ever been written. Almasy was a cartographer pre-World War II. He falls in love with his British business partner's wife Katherine Clifton and they begin an affair that lasts nearly ten years. 

She had grown older. And he loved her more now than he had loved her when he understood her better, when she was the product of her parents. What she was now was what she herself had decided to become."

She eventually ends it because of her family but her husband finds out anyways. Her husband attempts to kill all three of them by crashing his plane into the desert. *Spoiler alert* The husband dies, Katherine is injured, and Almasy is fine. Almasy places Katherine in a cave and promises to go find help and come back for her. He walks four days across the desert only to be locked up as a spy. 

Don't we forgive everything of a lover? We forgive selfishness, desire, guile. As long as we are the motive for it."

There is an amazing scene where he carries Katherine's dead body back across the desert. I sobbed like a baby reading this book, and the movie is just as good. Almasy and Katherine to me will always be the ultimate (although absolutely crippling) love story. 

One of the coolest fictional couples Meg and I got to see at TIFF this year. The book was beautifully written and the characters were certainly fleshed out, but what sold me on this couple were the beautiful shots of beaches and the wardrobes in the film adaptation. I feel like everyone romanticizes the ocean (a major motif in the book), and who can think of a better place to fall in love than a remote French hotel on the sea side? Freezing cold after long strolls on the beach and then getting cozy by the fire place? Alicia Vikander wears UGGS and glasses on a string in this ... she is also constantly wearing a rain coat and I wish people were attracted to me when I wear a rain coat... alas...









I will admit there's a nostalgic element to this... Meghan and I both idealized Remy and Dex in our teens (something that really clinched our friendship). Remy was this cool, no-attachments, doesn't-believe-in-love character (someone Meghan and I love to think we identify with but couldn't be further from) and Dex was this corny musician, Seth Cohen type of character. Dex pursues Remy throughout the book and Remy pushes him away and *spoiler* they end up together, duh. I think about this couple a lot for absolutely no reason and this list seemed incomplete without them. I was going to include a quote but they were all very cheesy. I imagine I'd cringe reading this now, remembering how 16-year old me loved it so much. 

I think this is my most realistic choice. There isn't any romance and it certainly isn't ideal, but it is definitely the most real. Their relationship starts with Patty pursuing Walter's best friend Richard - a deadbeat, uncaring musician - and then crawling back to him after things don't go as planned. Her plea for Walter crushes my heart every time I read it:

'He wasn't nice to me,' she said through tears. 'And you're the opposite of that. And I so, so, so need the opposite of that right now. Can you please be nice?' 'I can be nice,' he said, stroking her head. 'I swear you won't be sorry.' These were exactly her words, in the autobiographer's sorry recollection."

After this encounter Patty and Walter eventually get married and have children. Then Patty starts having an affair with old, shit-bag Richard again. Anyways, this book is a great story about the struggles of marriage and forgiveness. As my friend Stefan said, the relationships are so real in the book it is actually painful to read at times.








This is easily one of my favourite fiction novels. I have to have read it nearly twenty times. The book is about two best friends who spend their summers on Martha's Vineyard (a location I romanticize) and fall in love with two guys named Von and Bru. I always loved Victoria (Vix). She was quieter, excited when a popular girl showed an interest in her, and really values friends, family, and a shared history. She never knows what she wants and it takes a toll on her relationships with both Caitlin and Bru. Vix and Bru had one of those complicated relationships that stops, starts and kind of evolves overtime. My favourite thing about them is that despite really loving each other, and all the history they shared, they don't end up together. These are the kind of relationships I love and need to be reading about. 

I guess this is a cynical choice for me seeing as neither are really happy together nor do we assume that they stay together, BUT there is also some reality to their relationship that I respect / crushes me. They sort of acknowledge together that they weren't each other's first choice, and even that the love of their lives is someone they know but can't be with:

She was scrabbling in the drawer for the corkscrew, and then she turned and regarded me bleakly. 'Listen,' she said. 'I don't expect you to understand but it's rough to be in love with the wrong person.'

This is so simply put, and I understand out of context it may not be as jarring, but this passage really stuck with me. I have always been really obsessed with narratives where someone can't seem to pull themselves away from a significant other who is CLEARLY completely wrong for them on all levels, and who treats them so poorly. It was the only redeeming story line in Martin Scorsese's Casino. There's something honest and heartbreaking about it.

Anyways, this certainly isn't a happy couple, but it is one I think about A LOT.







I LOVE this marriage. It is definitely not something that should be idealized but it's so entertaining. Lady Macbeth is definitely in charge of their marriage and knows their enemy Duncan needs to be killed for her family to maintain their power. Because she's a woman, she can't kill him herself, so she spends most of the book manipulating her husband into doing it. She questions his manhood to a point where he NEEDS to kill Duncan just to prove himself to his wife. If we can forget the part where after she's so guilt ridden she goes mad... Lady Macbeth is a massively underrated feminist icon. I know Shakespeare is sometimes difficult and overwhelming to read, but if you can get past the iambic pentameter she throws some amazing insults her husband's way. One of my favourites is her calling him "infirm of purpose". Like imagine saying that to your HUSBAND? I love her.

I mean are you even surprised? I know that we were technically talking about fictional characters, but Didion and Dunne have inserted their personal lives into every single thing they have ever written. That's why I love them as both writers and as a couple.

I could easily write a 3000 word essay on my deep respect and obsession with this couple but I'll try to keep it brief. Didion and Dunne are extensions of each other, they were CONSTANTLY together. They would write in separate rooms but would always be calling out to each other to read something over, give advice, or think through an idea. They would also carry notebooks everywhere and would often write the same observations down. They agreed that whoever used the material first had the rights to it.

I am envious of this relationship because I crave that closeness. I don't want my relationship to be my life, but still, I have always been drawn to that kind of openness and dependency.

They also had A LOT of problems ... and it wasn't until I read Tracy Daughtery's biography of Didion that I was able to finally stop idealizing them to the extreme.







Sigh. Popular, bad boy Landon falls in love with religious, nerdy, outcast Jamie who is also *spoiler* dying of cancer. Outside of Sarah Dessen, Jamie and Landon were my first novel romance and I still can't get over them. This book inspired losers everywhere to think they could land the most popular guy in school by just cutting their bangs and being super sweet because it was sooooo unrealistic but that's the best part about it. Landon tattooing her shoulder? Landon having his mother teach him how to dance? Landon building her that telescope and driving to ask his estranged father for money for her treatments in the middle of the night with Switchfoot playing? Yes please. Yes to all of it. Every girl wanted a Landon. Meghan and I watched the film adaptation on DVD before I had internet set up at one of my old apartments and towards the end I said "man it's really cold in here" and she goes "same I just got a chill"... then we both realized we were just getting a shiver from the cheesy speech Shane West delivers at the very end. I feel he was robbed of an Academy Award for this performance. 









So this book was sent to us by Rare Bird Books and to be honest, this review is nearly a complete waste because I barely understood any aspects of the plot. I feel poorly because I'm clearly just too simple to understand a piece of work an author has spent a ton of time and effort on. I do still think this book was incredibly well written (Light has a clear way with syntax) and I miraculously still found it entertaining despite not understanding what was going on. 

Here is my best, likely insulting, summary of the plot... The main character is fresh out of high school when his parents die in a car crash. He runs away, becomes homeless for a while, and gets involved in some sort of criminal 'ring'. I say 'ring' because he is consistently doing 'pickups' and 'drop offs' of flash drives and money and such, but it's never explicitly said what's going on here (or it is and I didn't get it- it took me until I was twenty-five years old to realize everyone around me had been doing cocaine for years without me knowing, so there is a very large chance what was happening in this book was obvious and like I said, I missed it). Anyways, he continues doing these pickups and drop offs for most of the book. At a few points he even needs to kill a few people (although it seems by accident). He spends a lot of time thinking about his parents and there is a section where he is involved with a girl named Sarah, which I really enjoyed. At the end, things somehow come full circle and the person who leads the 'ring' has also known him in his previous life? Or something? The ending SEEMED like it would have been very cool and Inception-esque, but again, I didn't get it.

Douglas Light


I enjoyed reading the parts where he pursued a relationship with Sarah quite a bit because I felt like I could relate to her. She spends all this time and effort trying to settle the main character, ground him, have him confide in her and let her in to his secret world but he never can. He lies to her, abandons her for weeks at a time on jobs, etc. This is super stressful for me having been in a similar-ish relationship where I never really knew what was actually going on with the guy. I felt for Sarah, it's so tiring and frustrating.

I could get used to the normal life, I kept telling myself. Get a dull job at a movie theater or some magazine, have dinner parties with people I didn't particularly like, shop at Ikea, even endure holiday visits to Sarah's folks. I'd murdered men. There was no way domesticity was more difficult."

One thing I didn't like about the main character is he actively makes all these terrible choices (trying to burn down his dead parents' house for the insurance money, getting involved with a sketchy guy at his homeless shelter, continuing to do these illegal jobs, murdering people, etc.) but he continues to blame his unfortunate circumstances and never himself. It gets so annoying to even listen to and I'm not sure he ever learns any differently by the end.

'I'm not a bad person', I told myself, 'it's just that my life is bad.'

I knew firsthand that, unstaunched, those bad breaks escalate. The world tastes blood. You become a continuous victim, and contrary to what all religions and governments and nonprofit organizations claim, mankind loves a victim, a loser, someone downtrodden- it loves someone to pick on."

What a quote. I will be saying "the world tastes blood" for the rest of my life.

I will say despite all this, I did pity his character throughout. He lost his parents right when he should have been going to college and becoming an adult. He ends up super lost in the world, takes a bad road, and then I can imagine it would be super hard to pull yourself off that road. He compares his job to an abusive relationship, hoping each time he goes to a 'job' that it's somehow more civilized:

One thing- one of the many things- I learned reading the women's magazines was that breaking free of an abusive relationship was tough. Nearly impossible. We can't do the hard work needed because we can't get past our own lies. We keep telling ourselves 'this time will be different.' It's not. It'll never be."

So, as my final review, I didn't understand this plot at all, but I still found the book entertaining enough to finish. I would be willing to read more books by Douglas Light and hope that the storyline is just easier to follow because I do like his writing style. I can't exactly recommend this book to anyone... because I don't know who would like it... because I don't know what it's about... BUT Where Night Stops is available to buy on February 13th. Don't let my simple mind stop you from trying it out if this sounds up your alley.













 I'm going to be painfully honest here when I say that I assumed I wouldn't enjoy this book. I have this horrible bias where I often think something that hasn't "made it" to the big-league's yet can't possibly be good. So this should serve as an even greater compliment to how much I enjoyed reading Jon R. Flieger's novel You Are Among Monsters. It crushed my expectations, and I will read any book he writes.

Flieger lives in Windsor, Ontario, and reached out about reviewing his book after seeing . Flieger works with our good friends at Biblioasis and they sent me his book. This book is 189 pages of existential dread. It also focuses on a less-than-happy, long-term couple living in some small town in Alberta. Safe to say, I loved the subject matter.

You Are Among Monsters follows Ian and Becky, a young couple who are fighting the frustration and boredom of being together well out of university. This book was so good because these petty, passive-aggressive arguments are so real. I've been in relationships where I felt like my partner's INFURIATING lack of emotion was driving me insane - or at least drove me to be unnecessarily argumentative. I sadly related to Becky ... and I'll say it was pretty hard to read about a character who is so unlikable and then recognize your own similar behaviour in relationships.

The spiral is not a hopeful shape. We say we spiral out of control. We say we spiral into disasters. We prefer arcs. A life plotted and executed. Rise. Peak. Decline. A death. We want to live in parabola rise crest fall like a wave. Water imagery and our love of narrative. But not true parabola. A happy ending. Any ending. Because even a bad ending is easy to tell. Here is what happened. Here is what went wrong."



Ian is training as a funeral home director, and it is this position that drags Becky with him to a small town in Alberta. She is currently unemployed and is desperately reapplying to graduate schools. This dynamic alone contributes to a lot of the hostility between the two.

While reading you learn a lot about what it would probably be like to work in the funeral business. There is a particularly graphic description of what it's like to have to pick up a body when the deceased died by suicide:

When a suicide is brought in the government coroner has to examine it before we can prep the body. When it's a hanging, the transfer agents or the cops or whoever collects the body is required to leave the ligature around the neck until the coroner examines is. That means the rope or the bed sheets or the sturdy old-fashioned orange extension cord is still on the body when we start work. Once when I was gurneying a transfer past the parents, the cord slipped out from under the sheet. Swinging. And the father groaned deep in his chest with a noise that I still remember and sometimes think I hear."

Ian and Becky grow more distant as the book goes on. Becky becomes obsessed with applying to do her PhD at a school that has previously declined her admittance three times. She starts stealing books from the university library and starts work on an application topic that is questionably factual-based. She also starts getting hammered alone.


Meanwhile Ian starts hanging out with a high school girl whose mother was murdered and whose body Ian picked up on his first day at work. This girl made me uneasy the entire time... you don't know what her intentions are and why she wants to keep meeting with Ian. It doesn't help that she describes her world view in such pessimistic terms:

Everyone is young until they're not. But the world runs on malice. And I want to learn how to make use of mine."

Like all idiot men, Ian is attracted to this girl even though he knows she is like 10 years younger than him. He notes the irony of meeting with her for the first time and her reading Lolita. 


There are a ton of lines in this book that really struck me. The entire time I was reading this book I was so impressed with Flieger, and I am so happy to be able to add another Canadian author to my bookshelf.

Telling horror stories is one way to avoid telling true stories, maybe."



Anyways, I'm definitely changing my tune about up-and-coming authors. And you all should too.












I knew that this book was coming out for a long time and I had zero interest in reading it until I learned that Faris and husband Chris Pratt were getting a divorce. I hate to even write the sentence that her divorce likely helped the book sales, but I'm sure it did. Pratt wrote the foreword to this book, but it was released in stores after their divorce was announced. I was desperate to see how they wrote about each other in the months leading up to their public announcement. I am also obsessed with celebrities so nobody really had to twist my arm, ya know?

This is another one of those celebrity memoirs I love to blow through on a lazy day somewhere. My boyfriend and I read it in a few hours before we were even into the new year. Faris covers a lot of topics including parenting, becoming an actress, and her podcast (called Anna Faris is Unqualified), but mostly the book centers around relationships and what she's learned so far about herself and men. I enjoyed it, it was cute and entertaining.



While it's clear Faris wrote the book pre-divorce, the foreword by Pratt was not the soul-crushing pre-divorce love letter I expected it to be and I'd guess he wrote it post-divorce. He was likely contractually still bound to the project, although he still has only nice things to say about her. 

I liked this book a lot because I agreed with a lot of Faris' relationship advice. I don't agree with a lot of the mainstream advice like 'don't go to bed mad'... my boyfriend and I literally need to go to sleep if we're fighting so it can be over the next day. It can be 1pm and if we're in a fight I'm all "okayyy bedtime... let's wake up tomorrow nicer to each other". Faris, on the other hand, seems really smart and practical about how she approaches things... for example:

I've heard the suggestion that I don't need a tight group of girlfriends anyway, because Chris should be my best friend. But I've never bought that. The idea that your mate must be your best friend feels to me like an overused mantra that puts unnecessary pressure on your relationship."

She also carries on about weddings in the exact same vein as I do... I love weddings don't get me wrong, but all of the shenanigans associated with them are a bit uncomfortable for me. Especially elaborate engagements. I laughed out loud at this passage:

I don't know where along the way we became a culture that mandates ' you must conceive of some crazy trickery that will later be deemed romantic'. It's fun for the surpriser, but not the surprisee. And then there's some poor woman who's like, "Holy shit, should I be doing this? Well, I can't say no now that he's created a scavenger hunt leading me to a ring on a chain around my dog's neck, who then barked three times and my whole family - in from out of town! - jumped out from behind the couch to start the celebrations before I've even answered... so Okay! Yes! I do!"

Then there's this amazing tidbit:

Both Ben and Chris asked my father if it was okay to propose to me, and in both cases my dad said that while of course he thought it was very considerate of them to ask, it was 'unnecessary because it is completely my daughter's  choice.'

I'm obsessed with my dad. Obviously I want him to feel respected and considered, but he also raised me to be a whole person who makes good decisions and knows what's best for me... so I also think the whole 'ask the dad' thing is maybe unnecessary. I really think parents just maintain this tradition because they want the scoop first, to be in on the little secret. I'm also 100% confident I'd never marry someone my dad didn't respect anyways. 




I don't know that I'd consider this book funny, but I've also never been a huge fan of Faris' comedic style anyways. I forget a lot of the stuff she's in, and without being insensitive to her well-deserved career as an actress, she tends to play someone a bit dumb and slutty in everything I can remember (House BunnyWhat's Your Number?Scary Movie, etc.)... and I prefer more of a Kristin Wig type role to this type in my preferred comedies... but everyone has their own preferences.

One of the things I forgot she was in was Friends! How could we forget, one of Joey's jillion sisters. Faris wrote this about her time on set with Friends and I think this is one of the funniest scenarios I can imagine because DO YOU join a group hug with the cast of Friends???

During one run-through [on her guest appearance on Friends], Jennifer Aniston suggested a group hug, and I was standing nearby so I started to take a step forward, but then I took a step back, I just didn't know where to go."

One of my closest friends Marijke has a funny story like this from her first date with her now-husband where they went to the movies and he went to a machine to buy a ticket and she wasn't sure if she was meant to go to another machine and buy her own or not... this is so funny to me because I also would be paralyzed over what to do... anyways hopefully Marijke is fine that this is now on the internet.



Lastly, while I did not get the sapfest from Chris Pratt in the foreword that I wanted (because I think he wrote it post-split), I DID get it from Faris herself (who I think wrote the whole book pre-split). There are so many great passages about her relationship with Pratt, how they started dating (she was already married when they met), Pratt as a father, etc. Starting with the dedication...

To Chris. Your wisdom and strength have made me a better person."


Had I not wanted to read this already, this would have sold me. I also loved this quote because it seems like such a Chris Pratt thing to say (not that I know him at all or the things he'd usually say):

It was kind of Chris to not make me feel guilty that we lived in my old house. It was similar to when I asked him if he was bothered by the fact that I was married before and he said, unsurprisingly, the perfect thing. 'Baby, you were just chilling on ice.'

And lastly, this passage at the very end of the book. This is the stuff I read books for people:

Chris, thank you for an impossible amount of support and love. Thank you for the flowers. Thank you for finding my credit card at the Kmart in Pheonix. Thank you for the deer jerky. Thank you for laughing at my dumb jokes. Thank you for cutting Jack's hair. But that might have to stop. Thank you for being just about the best person I know. I love you. I wish we had more words for love."

Ugh. I could cry over their divorce every time I read this.



If you like celebrity memoirs / Faris herself or are looking for a book with some tried and true relationship advice, I think you'd love this. I wish it could have made it onto the list we did last year on , because it's perfect for that. Was it the funniest or most insightful book I've ever read? No. But I did really enjoy it and I think a lot of females would. I also definitely see Faris in a different (less dumb, less slutty) light after reading this as well...










This was my . I've spent this year reading a lot of non-fiction and it was so nice to pick up a heavy, long-ass piece of fiction again. I should note here that "long-ass fiction" is an actual genre for me ... There is no way I could properly define it, but what I'm trying to say is that I love a massive book that leaves you trapped in the world that author created (whether it be a fixation with a character or even just how the story is narrated). Because I can't describe what I mean I'll leave you with a few examples of long-ass fiction: , Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (), and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

Anyways, Here I Am is in this same vein. It is a ~600-page family dramedy that serves as Jonathan Safran Foer's newest, and most mature, book. I say most mature only because he doesn't rely on any weird narrative structures or typography tricks the way he does in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Anyways, again, this is Foer's first book in TEN YEARS.

Here I Am starts off with the second most jarring line I've ever read in a book's first chapter: 

When the destruction of Israel commenced, Isaac Bloch was weighing whether to kill himself or move to the Jewish Home." 

**I need to note that the BEST first line I've ever read was Margaret Atwood's opener in The Blind Assassin: "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge. **

Foer's opening line kicks off half of Here I Am's plotline: a cataclysmic earthquake that destroys Israel. The other half of the plotline deals with the destruction of Jacob and Julia Bloch's marriage. 

Nothing goes away. Not on its own. You deal with it, or it deals with you."


Jonathan Safran Foer


The book bounces between the perspective of Jacob and Julia, as well as their oldest son, Sam. Jacob and Julia suffer from the same martial problems we all will... they are sexually bored and frustrated with each other's parenting. The main conflict occurs when Julia finds an unknown phone in their bathroom with some GRAPHIC sexts. She confronts Jacob and he admits to it, though nothing physical ever happened between him and this woman.

From here everything happens in a way that feels too realistic ... there's nothing overdramatic, and the parents both work hard to make it an easy transition for the kids.

Sitting with her now, rehearsing the horrible conversation, Jacob wondered if maybe, all those years, he misunderstood the spaces surrounding Julia: her quiet, her steps back. Maybe they weren't buffers of defense, but of the most extreme humility, the purest generosity. What if she wasn't withdrawing, but beckoning? Or both at the same time? Withdrawing and beckoning? And more to the point: making a world for their children, even for Jacob."

One narrative trick Foer uses is the whole "what was said" vs. "what was thought" comparison, and I will say it did work really well in this context. There are a lot of scenes where he will attribute something Julia said out loud, but then will follow it up with "what she really thought was..." This never passes into overuse or being too cheesy.

There is also a ton of beautiful / soul crushing discussions about marriage and child rearing which I obviously loved. There are two quotations from this book that will be seared in my memory for actual eternity. The first is just so simple and short that I want to sob my eyes out right now. Julia asks Jacob this question in the first half of the book and Foer constantly returns to it:

Does it make you sad that we love the kids more than we love each other?"


Oh god I'm in agony just typing it. This is honestly something that I struggle with so much and what TERRIFIES me about having children. I don't ever want to love someone more than I love my own partner. And I know it's a different kind of love, but still, I don't want it.


My other favourite passage is from Jacob's mother. She delivers this in a speech at their wedding:

'In sickness and in sickness,' Jacob's mother had said at his wedding. 'That is what I wish for you. Don't seek or expect miracles. There are no miracles. Not anymore. And there are no cures for the hurt that hurts most. There is only the medicine of believing each other's pain, and being present for it.'

Goddamn that's good. Please, someone invite me to speak at their wedding...

There is also a great moment when Jacob just screams at Julia after being confronted about the texts, "YOU ARE MY ENEMY."

I know this may seem weird out of context of the fight, but it's one of those things that if someone genuinely screamed this at me I would be devastated... He literally spits it out. It's one of those things you can never take back, and it would honestly burn into my memory for the rest of my life.

There is also a lot of comedy in the book. One of my favourite scenes is when Jacob, his father, his cousin and his youngest son are at the airport. Jacob goes to the bathroom and finds himself peeing next to Steven Spielberg. He immediately looks at Spielberg's dick. This alone is so funny because OF COURSE you would look. It's fucking Steven Spielberg. But Foer goes on! The punchline is that Jacob is convinced he is looking at an uncircumcised penis. He runs out to tell his father (I should mention that the Bloch family are Jewish and identify as Jewish) and his dad starts to have a meltdown. He is DEVASTATED that Spielberg is uncircumcised.

Safran Foer and his ex-wife, author Nicole Krauss


As for the stuff about having children... Jacob and Julia have three sons with the oldest being in high school. Foer has a son with ex-wife (and author) Nicole Krauss. I was actually so sad to read of their divorce because they seemed like such a perfect pair. I loved reading  because you get to see how they've tried to raise their son. He writes this passage about one of the youngest sons in the book asking their father for privacy:

'Could we have a little privacy?' Max asked. The absurdity of it, the agony and beauty of it, almost brought Jacob to his knees: these two independent consciousnesses, neither of which existed ten and a half years ago, and existed only because of him, could now not only operate free of him (that much he'd known for a long time), but demand freedom."

I imagine this is how literally all parents feel as their children grow up. It's always funny to see a toddler say something so adult-like and demanding, and parents have a million of these stories. But I imagine that even though they laugh, their heart breaks a tiny bit inside. Another reason not to procreate.

This is a very long review and honestly it's because I LOVE this book SO SO SO much. Again it was easily my favourite book I've read all year. Don't be an idiot, pick up some long-ass fiction.









I was drawn to this book for no logical reason (as I am to most things). Mostly, I just loved the title. What a powerful one word. Also Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz are starring in the upcoming adaptation so you know that's going to be good. I bought it as soon as I saw the movie on the TIFF film schedule and realized it was based on a book.

The book is about Orthodox Jewish lesbians named Esti and Ronit. They grew up together and Ronit's dad was the head rabbi of the entire Jewish community. The community is extremely strict about their religion, homosexuality is definitely frowned upon, and years before Disobedience begins Ronit leaves this community to go to school in New York and never returns. Leaving the community is a big deal for a rabbi's daughter. When Disobedience begins, Ronit's father has passed away and she returns back to the community for her father's funeral. She learns her ex-lover Esti has married her cousin Dovid, who is set to replace her father as the head rabbi.

Alderman

While Esti and Ronit's complicated relationship is a major theme of the book, the story is actually about Ronit's complicated relationship with her religion (her father, the community, and Esti all just being minor pieces of that). I did not have a religious upbringing. My dad's family Jewish, but we only sometimes practiced that. We grew up with the type of Judaism where we SOMETIMES got together to eat potato latkas and light candles, NOTHING like the Judaism Alderman describes in Disobedience.  I do know a handful of strictly religious people, and I never really understood it. It seemed like one big diet that you had to abide by always. But I have always been jealous of the tight communities religion provides for you, sort of like sports, both of which I was never a part of. This quote, from Ronit when she decides to stay in New York rather than return to her Jewish community after school, sort of speaks to the way I've always pictured strict religions:

I remember the feeling of putting down the deposit on that cramped little bedroom and moving my things in. It was a great, glorious open feeling, like I'd just unsealed my lungs for the first time and realized that there was air to breathe. You can only save yourself, says Dr. Feingold, but at least you can do that."

Reading Disobedience has been very insightful for me. Ronit loves her religion but she doesn't want to be restricted by it, how can she marry these two ideas? The people of her community don't believe it's possible. This is a topic/inner conflict I could read about all day. The following quote really speak to this inner conflict Ronit faces:

'Sometimes I think that God is punishing me. For what we did together. Sometimes I think that my life is a punishment for wanting. And the wanting is a punishment, too. But I think- if God wishes to punish me, so be it; that is His right. But it is my right to disobey.'

I think it's very cool to hear religion positioned this way. The entire book is from Ronit's perspective so there are a lot of really thought provoking passages. Alderman herself grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community similar to the one described in Disobedience, so I did some research to determine if this novel had any autobiographical elements, and whether she was using Ronit as a voice for herself. I didn't find a conclusive answer to that question, but I did find a great quote from in 2016:

I went into the novel religious and by the end I wasn't. I wrote myself out of it."


So maybe Disobedience was a bit of an unexpected cathartic experience for Alderman at the very least.

Rachel McAdams (left) and Rachel Weisz (right) in the upcoming film adaptation


Religion aside, Alderman dives into topics that I go back to all the time, ambivalence, relationships, and how these themes can be amplified by the presence of religion. I've talked on this blog 1000 times about my inability to make choices, and I don't have the fear of God to deal with on top of my own anxiety. I loved this passage where Ronit describes the complexities of making choices about your own life (applicable in religious and non-religious contexts):

We hang suspended between two certainties: the clarity of the angels and the desires of the beasts. Thus, we remain forever uncertain. Our lives present us with choices, further choices and more choices, each multiplying, our ability to find our way forever in doubt. Unhappy creatures! Luckiest of all beings! Our triumph is our downfall, our opportunity for condemnation is also our chance for greatness. And all we have, in the end, are the choices we make."

She also touched on the complexities of marriage, another topic I am obsessed with. Esti is married to Ronit's cousin Dovid, but still in love with Ronit. Esti really only married Dovid because Ronit went to New York and was, to her knowledge, never coming back. She isn't unhappy with Dovid, but marrying him wasn't the answer to her heartbreak either despite her best efforts. Ronit observes their marriage with what I would call mild jealousy mixed with mild pity. It's also clear that Ronit doesn't really respect marriage as she's having a casual affair with a married man she works with in New York.

Those who believe that marriage is an end in itself, that it is a guarantee of contentment, are fools. Marriage is difficult. It is painful. And it was meant to be so... And although marriage may, in slow and unexpected ways, bring us much joy and satisfaction, nothing of the sort has been promised."

Esti, naive as she is written, believes Ronit's return means they can be together again. Ronit, much smarter and less jaded, knows this isn't going to happen. It's never clear whether it's because of their religion, because of Esti's marriage, or because Ronit has simply moved on. I did love this quote though:

It is a terrible, wretched thing to love someone whom you know cannot love you. There are things that are more dreadful. There are many human pains more grievous. And yet it remains both terrible and wretched. Like so many things, it is insoluble."

I thought this book was really well-written but also super anti-climatic. I enjoyed reading it but I can easily see how other people could call it boring. I can't think of a single person in my life I'd recommend it to, which is unfortunate because I liked it so much. I think the upcoming film adaptation will be amazing and I hope the writer who adapted the screenplay was true to Alderman's novel.

Margaret Atwood (left) with Alderman (right)


This book won the Orange Award for new writers, and I think it was well-deserved. The fact that this is Alderman's first novel is honestly baffling, and I do look forward to reading more of her work. It's clear she's very talented, Margaret frigging Atwood chose her as her protege as part of a mentorship program, and Barack Obama recently listed Alderman's The Power as one of his favourite reads of 2017.











This is a hard list and we hardly ever agree. We're sorry to all the authors who made it on the 'worst' list but maybe just write books we like more? If any of the authors are reading this, which of course they aren't. Anyways, these are in no particular order.


God I love reading a massive, beautiful piece of fiction. Here I Am is easily Jonathan Safran Foer's most mature book. Not only is it not from the perspective of a child, but it also doesn't use the "narrative tricks" he has been known for. Everyone already knows that I love a story about a crumbling marriage, so I was already sold from the start.. but Foer really pushes it beyond just that. There are so many small, heartbreaking situations we can all recognize throughout it. It also has one of my favourite endings. Look for an author spotlight from me on Foer this year!



This, surprisingly even to me, was one of my favourite books I read all year... and I read it in January ()! The plot to this fiction novel has stuck with me this entire year as I've navigated my own relationships. It's an amazing story about best friends and couples on Nantucket Island, women who don't ask for the things they want and need, romantic relationships that get dragged through the mud... all my favourite things. I love Elin Hilderbrand novels in general but this one has stuck out to me from her whole repertoire, and even above anything else I've read this year. It's a perfect chick-lit fiction novel.

I mean, obviously this is on my list. is the ruler of my world and my favourite writer to ever live and breath. I am crippled with anxiety from her approaching death. I found out last Christmas that this book was to be published and I pre-ordered it immediately. I read it in February of 2017, so it made a lasting impression for the rest of the year. This isn't something she wrote presently, it's an accumulation of her notes from a trip she took across the southern states decades ago. So while it isn't exactly something new, it is definitely still required reading. Just read Joan Didion... Honestly who cares where you start, just do it. My full review can be found !



I think if you read of this Canadian short story collection, you'll already know I'm absolutely obsessed with it. A friend of ours is actually the author but that has absolutely nothing to do with me carrying on about it like it's the best thing ever, it IS the best thing ever. Huebert has this amazing knack for capturing incredibly human moments that you didn't even know could ever be written down but then there they are on the page in front of you. It also helps that he pads all of his short stories with factual passages related to the topic in the story, and I love to read pure facts. I've already gone back and re-read some of my favourite stories ("Enigma" and "How Your Life"), it's definitely one of the best books I've read this year.



This was a very pleasant surprise for 2017. Our brilliant friend Emily got us a copy of her colleague Adrian Owen's book Into the Gray Zone. It's about his research and work communicating with patients who are believed to be in a state of "unconsciousness." Not only is this book incredibly informative (and also easy to read for people who are not phd-level geniuses) but it is also highly personal. I would recommend this book to literally anyone. My full review can be found !



We read this book for this year and I have to say, it was brutal. I thought it would be fun (the topic is women who organize a town-wide sex strike, sounds fun right??), but it was because of MAGIC which, kill me, is my least favourite topic. Had I known magic was at all a factor I would have vetoed it immediately. The best part is that it was very short and easy to blast through, the downside is that I had to waste time reading a hybrid of young adult fiction and sci-fi, the two worst genres.

I love any film by Alex Garland so I was really excited to read this book when I found out he was adapting it for 2018. Unfortunately I was pretty disappointed with the source material and I hope Garland can make something new out of it. There were all sorts of different themes I wanted Jeff Vandermeer to dig into and he just barely scratched the surface. I wouldn't suggest starting off with Annihilation for your first attempt at science fiction. But, decide for yourself.. read my full review .



Not only was this book garbage, but the movie was brutal also. I thought it would be an amazing adventure fiction book, two people fighting for their lives in the wild... and it was... except magically these characters had all sorts of snow gear and energy. This book's biggest downfall was how unrealistic it was. The love story throughout also felt unnatural... I just overall wouldn't recommend this and I especially wouldn't recommend wasting 2 hours of your life watching the film. My expanded rant can be found .



How sad that there are two picks for on this list? Whomp-whomp. I didn't HATE this book, and I definitely feel a ton of anxiety picking out books for this list because it is so difficult.. but I also far from loved Helter Skelter. For one, it was just way too long and way too dense. I really enjoyed the book club aspect, like getting to read Kenan or Emily's summaries and discussing what was going on in real life (i.e. MANSON DYING). But this is a book I would have a lot of trouble sticking with if I was reading it totally alone.



I wouldn't say this book was especially bad, but I didn't love it and I barely even remembered it until I scrolled through my Instagram figuring out what was going to make this list... This was a book sent to us by a publishing company, it's a murder mystery, and it was FINE... but it wasn't great. The relationships were cheesy and overdone and the revenge plot is something we've read about 1000 times... If you care to read more about what I liked and didn't like my review is .







We have always been spoiled brats, so why should that change just because we are in our mid-twenties?? These are all the books we got for Christmas this year!
I still haven't watched the Angelina Jolie Netflix adaptation of this memoir yet, but it has already been nominated for best foreign film at the Golden Globes. After talking to my friend Andre at a party I decided I needed to read Ung's book first. I am looking forward to learning about Cambodia and what they had to go through. I am also prepared to sob my eyes out. Thanks for the recommendation Andre!



I love a long-ass, non-fiction title (the subtitle is "A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science doesn't Understand"). I also love memoirs about health issues. Rehmeyer's story is all about her trying to live with chronic fatigue syndrome, something doctors don't know a lot about. I can't wait to read all about this disease we have all claimed to suffer from. I wanted to wait for this to come out in paperback but I'm not sure if it is on track to. When I went searching for this at Indigo the guy working assumed I meant When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.. Sorry, but some of us are interested in a wider range of medical memoirs.



I DID NOT KNOW THIS WAS A REAL BOOK. I actually found out at movie club when we were on our month of "films about films" and we watched Adaptation by Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze. I had watched this movie many times and loved the passages from what I thought was a fictional book.. At the meeting I said, "God I wish this was a real book," and everyone was like, "uuuh it is!" I may have to prioritize this to the top of my Christmas reading list.



I am ready to become a full-fledged basketball fan by moving into my first ever athlete biography. I normally hate biographies as I prefer to read memoirs or autobiographies, but Lebron has yet to write one. I can't not read this book. The Cavaliers winning the 2016 NBA Finals (and the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead) was easily the best experience I have had in the last decade. I am so grateful for Lebron and will actually fight anyone who tells me they don't like him. Meg and I am also going to see him play in Toronto against the Raptors in January (THANKS HUMAN FOR THE ULTIMATE GIFT) and maybe I ask him to sign it????

I mean ... I like to jump right into the deep end.. I have to read this biography... I am adamant that Lebron is the GOAT, but I am willing to read up on Jordan so that I can have a more informed decision. After reading one of the I knew I would need to read something more in-depth about him. This is not the man we thought we knew from Space Jam...



This was a gift from Ben. It makes me so happy because 1) he knows I am obsessed with Everest thanks to Katie and 2) he struggled to find a book I haven't read about Everest. I should note that my bookshelf is organized by author or theme ... so he spent quite a while looking through it to confirm I don't have this book. He also consulted his dad and his dad's friend about it. They said that anyone who is fascinated by Everest needs to read this book.



I wanted this on Meg's recommendation, or I guess technically on the recommendation of Greta Gerwig. Meg sent me Greta's reaction to the book and I figured if she loved it that much I need to check it out.



This was another book Ben bought me for Chistmas. I love any non-fiction title with a few adjectives thrown in (subtitle is "A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed"). I have honestly been looking at this book for a few years now, always thinking I should pick it up. So that's why it was such a nice surprise that Ben bought it for me. He had no idea I was intrigued by it, but I guess he has figured out my taste in books pretty quickly.


This was 50% off on Black Friday at Indigo and I had just spent the week in southwest Nova Scotia for work talking about podcasts and audiobooks. A woman I met there named Trudy told me she just finished this audiobook. After telling me it's about a woman who was the first female diver during the war I decided to add it to my Christmas list. Egan also won the Putlizer for A Visit From the Goon Squad, so she must be a great writer. 



And last but not least, another memoir! I heard about this book from a long-form article about people who accidentally kill someone, and how they are very few resources for them to help cope. So for instance if a kid comes out of nowhere on their bike and you hit them with your car, you aren't a bad person, but people are uncomfortable with it. Anyways, I guess this is like the ONLY memoir about someone who has had to go through something like that.




You may have seen this book as one of my recommendations for , but to be honest, I knew this book was coming for a long time and really had no interest in reading it until her and Chris Pratt recently announced their divorce. I mean, Pratt wrote the foreward, who wouldn't want to read this type of celebrity outpour of love for an ex-wife??? Otherwise, I don't necessarily love Faris. As I write this, I've already finished it, so expect a review in the new year. It was, as you may have expected, a VERY easy read.



Another suggestion from my !! What can I say, my family reads my blog, how cute are we? Winter Street, Winter Stroll, Winter Storms and most recently published, Winter Solstice, are a series Hilderbrand has slowly been releasing. I think it's complete now and I'm totally ready for a good binge of one of my favourite fiction authors, how lucky was I to get all 4 books from my parents at once???



My sister loves to gift me this type of book and luckily picked up on the not so subtle clue I wanted it in earlier this year. This book is about two researchers who conduct a 3 year study and 200+ prison interviews with men serving life sentences for killing their female partners. HOW INTERESTING. I can't wait to read this book and bore everyone with facts for the next ~year until I become a self-proclaimed expert on something else.




I'm admittedly late to the Kelly Oxford game but I've been following her twitter feed long enough now that I felt I would enjoy her books. Oxford is Canadian and became famous for her sarcastic and pointed twitter account... she's since done some film writing and such. I don't really have much more to say on this one...


I just wrote about this new book in . She's one of my favourite fiction author and this is her brand new novel that my aunt was kind enough to buy for me. It's about wildfires that take over a community and a group of husbands who join on as volunteer firefighters. My favourite plotline to anything is a wife who doesn't know the fate of her husband so I'm excited to read this.





I have a rotton dog, that's all there is to this. My boyfriend got this for me as though OUR dog is MY problem, but thankfully, he's brought it on vacation with us to read for himself.



So if you read this blog at all you likely know I already own, read, and loved this book. My full review is . However, my boyfriend's mom definitely doesn't read this blog (which is honestly likely a good thing), saw an article on Huebert in our local paper and how he wrote this book. Knowing that I went to Western and suspecting I'd be interested in this, she went to the book store and picked it out all on her own, and included the newspaper article in it. How sweet is she???? She was also right on the money for this being something I'd love.












I love Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later) so when I saw the trailer for Annihilation and found out it was based on a book I decided to give it a go. I don't usually read such extreme science fiction, but he has always impressed me so much with his work that I thought I'd try it. Garland adapted the Kazuo Ishiguro book , so I had a lot of faith in him in regards to his relationship between a script and a novel. So I went out and bought Jeff VanderMeer's book - the first in his Southern Reach Trilogy.

Annihilation focuses on a team of four women (a biologist, anthropologist, psychologist, and surveyor) on the twelfth expedition to Area X. How this bizarre location developed or why the government is so worried about it is never identified. All we know is that there have been previous expeditions and they have either ended in violence, suicide or cancer.

We move through Area X from the perspective of the biologist (no one's real name is ever exposed). When the team gets there they discover a staircase going deep into the ground and decide to explore it. From here a bunch of weird shit starts happening ... It isn't a spoiler to say that only the biologist survives, as she says early on in the book:

I would tell you the names of the other three, if it mattered, but only the surveyor would last more than the next day or two. Besides, we were always strongly discouraged from using names: We were meant to be focused on our purpose, and 'anything personal should be left behind.' Names belonged to where we had come from, not to who we were while embedded in Area X."

Natalie Portman in the movie adaptation directed by Alex Garland


I'll start by saying I will probably never read the other two books of this trilogy. Garland has also said that he has no intention of working on a second or third film. The reason I won't keep reading is simply because I didn't really enjoy the first book. There were too many times that I felt a little lost and some of the topics I was interested in were ignored.

One of the reasons I picked up this book was because I was so interested in the concept of an expedition lead by only women. There is some brief mention about how they have experimented with different combinations for expedition teams ... our main character's husband went on an all-male expedition for instance. I guess I was hoping for some sort of explanation ... like why they thought having all of the same sex would influence what they found in Area X or their experience of it ... but there is nothing about this at all.

This was also acknowledged when the biologist talks about how her husband was on the 11th expedition and her reason for signing up after he died:

A spouse of a former expedition member had never signed up before. I think they accepted me in part because they wanted to see if that connection might make a difference. I think they accepted me as an experiment. But then again, maybe from the start they expected me to sign up."


This is the sort of stuff I love about science fiction books ... it gets you to ask why some of these scenarios exist, and what are the intentions behind them. Why would they want a team of all women or all men? What does the government believe having a spouse of a past-expedition leader accomplish? It makes you wonder more and more about the nature of Area X ... my issue here is always that I don't get any answers, just more questions.

One thing I did really like was that VanderMeer does not use any of the stereotypes associated with women. No one on this team is a "nurturer," no one is overly emotional or compassionate: "Observation has always meant more to me than interaction." There is no camaraderie at all between this group of women.

I do love sci-fi in that I wish I was a scientist ... a marine biologist, animal behaviouralist, or someone who could potentially work for the Department of Natural Resources. This is what drew me to the book. I love a team of female scientists exploring a dangerous, unnatural environment.

How what we had seen below could coexist with the mundane was baffling. It was as if we had come up too fast from a deep-sea dive but it was the memories of the creatures we had seen that had given us the bends."

a scene from Garland's upcoming adaptation


There is also talk early on about how their team originally had a fifth member, a linguist. Obviously I was super pumped about this as Meg and I both got our master's degree in linguistics. I love that our field of study is always mentioned in movies because that is exactly the kind of attention we would want ourselves. For instance, I remember watching the first Thor movie and one of the CIA guys was like "GET SOMEONE FROM LINGUISTICS DOWN HERE!" I mean there's also Arrival, based on a linguist who has to help decipher an alien language. God, maybe I'm as cool as I aways wanted to be.

The book is super short (208 pages), but is eery the entire way through. VanderMeer is constantly alluding to the dangers this expedition will face. But there is also a sense of unease between the characters for other reasons: lack of trust, the history of past expeditions, and a sense that they haven't been given all of the information about Area X.

I hope it's only about six feet deep so we can continue mapping," the surveyor said, trying to be lighthearted, but then she, and we, all recognized the term "six feet under" ghosting through her syntax and a silence settled over us."

Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez in the film adaptation- in theatres February 2018


Another topic I did really enjoy was the nature of curiosity. What we are willing to do to answer puzzling questions, to explore what's new, and to continue to push into the unknown.

I feel like this quotation below summarizes why people flock to science fiction, and how these types of books often become best sellers. It is the same reason we are obsessed with true crime ... we'll never really know the truth, but we still grasp at answers. We HATE not knowing.

You understand, I could no more have turned back than have gone back in time. My free will was compromised, if only by the severe temptation of the unknown. To have quit that place, to have returned to the surface, without rounding that corner ... my imagination would have tormented me forever. In that moment, I had convinced myself I would rather die knowing ... something, anything."

This is a sentiment I can understand. While I am certainly a coward, I am also very curious, and having things left unanswered actually pains me.

This book is short and is worth the read if you really love science fiction. Again, I do enjoy sci-fi books now and again, but I needed more from this one. I can't help but think Garland's movie adaptation is going to be much, much better than the book.









Meagan

Guys, we're done! I feel like this was a large accomplishment. Not as big as Moby Dick but only because that wasn't even enjoyable.

I really liked how Bugliosi took things into 'present' day context at the end... where the Family is at now, how things have been proceeding, etc. I like to learn about the mass amounts of fan mail Manson recieves etc. It seems almost bittersweet that he's dead now right as we finish the book. I'd love to be following his Twitter feed or something (assuming he had one).

I, myself, have no opinion on the death penalty so it's hard to say whether I felt relieved or disappointed when Manson and the girls got relieved of their sentences. For Manson, it almost seems like death would have been a privilege for him that he didn't deserve, but what do I know?

I really liked Bugliosi's writing style and feel somewhat compelled to read his other work but I'm not sure if I'm that interested in the content. I felt surprised to learn he'd continued as an author rather than a lawyer, but I guess prosecuting Manson would be the high to go out on...

It seems weird to me that we still care so much about this case, as there have been far worse serial killers since the Manson Family. I think it goes back to what Meg said in an earlier section about there being no particular rhyme or reason for this... which scares people more almost than something we can apply reason to. It's the cult aspect that makes it so famous I guess.

Are we happy we read this or how do we feel? I'm glad I did, I really liked it and found it well-written and super interesting. I previously knew nothing about this group at all...

Meghan

Another bookclub down! It was cool to try nonfiction for our third choice. I felt like because it was true crime we were all able to add a little more to our discussions because we can draw from the facts and knowledge we already knew going into the book. I will definitely say I learned A LOT about the case. I think a lot of people assume they know the whole story because it is such a well-known murder, but I was surprised by how much I had no idea about.

And, like Meg said, it was really weird that Manson died while we were reading and finishing up book club.

As for whether or not I fully enjoyed the book.... I would say I found it to be a little too dense for my liking. I'm glad I read it because I feel like I am now pretty well versed in the crimes and the court case, but I think this book only sold as well as it did because people are obsessed with Manson..

I will say it was great to read from the perspective of the actual lawyer who prosecuted Manson instead of just an author who researched the story.

So, what are everyone's final thoughts? And who is ready to pick another book for a 2018 club??









I asked for this book as a gift after reading Thomas' A Three Dog Life, which I absolutely loved. It was an amazing memoir about grief and aging and you can read my . This book follows A Three Dog Life but some of the timeline precedes it. I didn't know when I first read her work that before the mentioned marriage in A Three Dog Life, Thomas had actually been married before and had three children. What Comes Next and How to Like It is about how her best friend Chuck falls in love with one of her daughters, and how their friendship survives and evolves past that relationship.

'Why does forgiveness irritate me so much?' I ask Chuck. 
'Because it's the ultimate act of passive aggression', he says."

I will say that I didn't enjoy this one as much as A Three Dog Life but I'm not abandoning her work entirely. She still has other books I want to read. Where A Three Dog Life was written in normal novel format, What Comes Next is short, sometimes half a page or few-sentence 'thoughts' on a particular topic such as her painting, her daughter's cancer, her neighbour's dog, etc. I found this very charming and I really liked most of them, but it did make it difficult for me to invest in any type of story line because there really wasn't one. They do follow a loose sequential order so you understand how things are evolving, but it's still very disjointed.

Thomas enjoying her own book


One thing that makes her writing so appealing is that Thomas is simply a very relatable narrator. She drinks but wishes she could stop, smokes but wishes she could stop, worries but wishes she could stop, curses, naps in the morning, and doesn't brush her hair. She likes to binge watch television. This was one of my favourite passages, I feel this exact same way everyday:

But when it gets dark, I’m off the hook. The day is officially rolled up and put away. I’m free to watch movies or stare at the wall, no longer holding myself accountable for what I might or might not have gotten done because the time for getting something done is over until tomorrow.” 

I found this book very depressing because it gave me so much nostalgia about my relationship with my friend Andrew. He and I have been friends for ~16 years now and we've gone through many different phases of our relationship. There were times when we spent everyday locked up together in his basement watching Gilmore Girls and listening to Jack Johnson, then there were years that went by where we maybe sent three messages to each other. In recent years, we became very close as we were both going through breakups, and since have drifted apart again as we move on with our lives. I think both of us know that the distance doesn't mean we are less important to each other than we once were, but rather our priorities have shifted. It's hard, with a significant other, pets, full time jobs, etc. to make the investments in our relationship that we did in our early twenties. We simply don't have the time or energy. Nevertheless, I love him the same amount as I always have, and I inevitably drew parallels to Thomas' relationship with Chuck as she describes it. 

We've known each other so long that we don't have to talk, and when we do we don't have to say anything. When he asks me if I'd like to take a trip around the world I can say yes knowing I'll never have to go."




While the book is mainly centered around this friendship, other bleak themes Thomas writes about include cancer, alcoholism, and mortality. Thomas' daughter gets cancer and it's obviously devastating to any family. One thing I found interesting is because of the likelihood of relapse once you're in remission, Thomas couldn't even find joy in her daughter being cancer-free because she felt like she was just biding time until it came back. I know this is exactly how I'd feel if god forbid anyone I loved got sick. Thomas also falls into a spell of alcoholism. She drinks beers all day out of what seems like boredom but beneath the surface is actually just her fearing death and trying to die at the same time. It's disturbing. 

There are three things that make me want to drink: difficult times, when I want alcohol to either alleviate the pain or allow me to feel it; clear days that make me want to scribble all over the irritating blue sky; and well, waking up in the morning.”  

Meg and I are also suckers for any kind of writing about grief. I think in some brat-like fashion we each think we've experienced it but we're in for a very rude awakening one day. I loved this passage about grief as she reflects on her late husband:

Grief is different from worry. I don't want to remember what it was like before, eating muffins and reading the paper together on the porch. I don't want to remember him planting the wild grasses that he loved, or the way he smiled at me, or his generous heart. I don't want to remember walking down Broadway holding hands. I am still shocked by what happened. I am used to never getting used to it. But grief overtakes me in the coffee aisle, or sweeping the porch, or smiling at the dogs, catching me unaware. Grief is not a pleasure, but it makes me remember, and I am grateful."

...and this one on anger:

Anger is a luxury. Anger wants answers, retribution, reason, something that makes sense. Anger wants a story, stories help us make sense out of everything. But while we scramble to help those who need it, who has time for anger? Who has time to make sense out of anything? There is only what is. Anger is a distraction. Anger removes me from grief, and the opportunity to be helpful.” 

Being old, naturally she's terrified of dying, but I also think sometimes old people are also eagerly anticipating death in a "let's just get this over with" type of way. My mom's grandma is 99 and I was visiting with her over the weekend. I asked her if she was looking forward to seeing everyone for our Christmas party next weekend. She said no. I imagine being old similar to being 9 months pregnant, you just want to give birth already but you're also absolutely terrified to give birth. I've never been pregnant or old so I really have no clue what I'm talking about.

Thomas and her beloved dogs (doesn't this couch fabric scream cool old person???)



Lastly, I love to read Thomas' rhetoric around dogs. I am a dog person, if you know me I very obviously love my dogs, but the way Thomas writes about them is more admiration than love. It's almost jealousy of their carelessness and lack of thought. Anyone with a dog can tell you they ground their owners. They make problems seem smaller, and offer an unparalleled type of companionship. For Thomas though, they're almost also a reason for getting up every morning and finishing the day. Small routines like feeding them and letting them out give this seventy year old woman with no other responsibilities some structure. It gives me a newfound appreciation for owning a dog. When I'm old, I'll still have to get out of bed to make sure my dog is fed. 

Here's what I love about dogs. They aren't careful not to disturb you. They don't overthink. They jump on the bed or the sofa or the chair and plop down. They come and they go... If one of them is lying next to me and suddenly prefers the sofa I don't take it personally... I used to lie in a lover's arms getting a stiff neck, or needing to scratch my nose, or losing all sensation in my arm, unwilling to move lest the man find out I wasn't comfortable in his embrace..."

I would still recommend A Three Dog Life over this one if you're looking to get your feet wet with Thomas' writing, but this was a good read as well and had some really meaningful moments for me. I always think how I'll make a great old person since I love down time so much, but I obviously can't understand the anxieties that must come with aging. 

If you have a senior in your life that enjoys reading, I think they'd love the humour in this. Otherwise I probably wouldn't recommend anyone depress themselves reading this just for fun. If you like a more traditional story line, or action of any kind in your reading, this particular writing style will drive you absolutely nuts and bore you to death.








This is not the last week. I repeat, this is NOT the last week. The epilogue and afterword are going to be unreal guys let's keep up momentum. Next week will be the grand finale and we can pick a new book!!!!

Even though I knew how this ended, I still found the convictions so fucking satisfying. Yes, jail, fuck you all you scary psychopaths. However, I found the sentencing especially grim. I don't know where I sit with the death penalty really so it's a hard subject for me to read about. On one hand, I want them to face the ultimate punishment, the worst their is, but on the other hand, I want them to rot in jail for a lifetime and never get the freedom death offers them. 

I especially liked Bugliosi keeping his statements during sentencing short and sweet. "If this is not a case worthy of the death penalty, what would be?"... This is so powerful because honestly when it's positioned that way, they for sure do deserve it. 

I also liked the parts about the girls' families and how some chose to stand by their kids and others wanted nothing more to do with them. I wonder how I'd feel? I'd want my child in jail, to be contained and have the opportunity for treatment, but I wouldn't want her to die I don't think. I'd hope I'd go to court and try to plead for a life sentence. But, I am a pussy so... 

I don't want to talk too much I mostly want to know what do you guys think? Are we happy with how this went?








Whenever Katie Gibbs tells me about a book I buy it the next day. She has single-handedly recommended me more books than anyone else in my life combined. She kick-started my obsession with Everest, long-term travel accounts, and pretty much any story about perseverance. Katie is an amazing storyteller and I could listen to her tell me the plot of any book for hours. So naturally when she mentioned Red Sky in Mourning I was already writing it down on my phone's notepad and planning my trip to Indigo the next morning. Red Sky in Mourning is Tami Oldham's account of her survival after her fiance is lost at sea after an unexpected storm.

Tami and Richard were both avid sailors and had spent years working on boats, both as sailors and as craftsmen. They agree to sail a couple's boat from Tahiti to San Diego as a way to make some extra cash, before embarking on a long trip sailing around the world. They're struck by a storm and after being knocked unconscious below deck Tami regains consciousness to find the ship half destroyed and Richard nowhere in sight.

I've always been pretty interested in sailing (of course not interested enough to actually give it a try myself) and this probably stems from my desire to be a marine biologist / love of the ocean. I love that sailing is so hands on. I have always been fascinated with lost-at-sea stories (In the Heart of the Sea) and am also obsessed with the documentary Maidentrip about a Dutch girl who became the youngest person to sail around the world. I honestly don't know why I am so interested in these stories ... part of me thinks it's because how unforgiving the ocean is and how little we know about it.

I mean, imagine the hell Tami goes through. You wake up and your fiance is gone ... you would hope he died instantly because after everything I've read I've decided that being lost at sea is probably the worst way you can go. It is slow and painful, you either starve to death or die of dehydration - a fact even more torturous considering you are surrounded by water. Meg and I always said we would just swim as far down as we could or at least just inhale as much water as it takes to burst our lungs. We do not have the survivalist gene.

Oldham and her fiancee Richard
There are some really powerful lines that show her grief. My favourite was when she is considering what rations she has and she thinks to herself: "Richard will be thirsty when I find him." How sad??? This is the stuff Didion writes about ... the magical thinking you are plagued with.

Tami ends up spending 30+ days at sea, using her own knowledge of navigation to try and aim for Hawaii. She has to ration her food and water, make repairs on the boat, and also grieve the death of the love of her life. That's what also adds an extra terrifying layer - not just losing your fiance, but having to endure the aftermath of the disaster ALONE.

One thing I liked about this book (because I am sick) is that she considers suicide at least three times after the storm:

I couldn't think clearly. My head throbbed and my body ached with every movement. There was nothing else I could think to do, short of jumping overboard and ending this nightmare. If Richard had beckoned, I would have jumped." 

The first one is obviously pretty heartbreaking ... she is so miserable and devastated over Richard's death that she just sits and sobs for the first handful of days. She starts to hear this "voice" that acts like her survival compass ... telling her to eat, drink, to get up and get to work. I would have told this voice to fuck off and then tried to hold my breath until I died. The voice does serve as a bit of comic relief to the narrative, and again this is best exemplified when she threatens to kill herself again:

'Man, I could get wasted on this,' I announced to no one. 'I bet if I drank it all, I could die of alcohol poisoning.'

The voice asks "what would be the point?"

Shailene Woodley as Oldham in the upcoming movie adaptation Adrift, after spending an entire shoot having buckets of ice water dumped on her.

The thing I didn't enjoy about this is that I don't love a book that ends in any sort of Christian belief... At the end Tami does explicitly say she thinks God saved her, blah blah. Again, this isn't really for me but it doesn't take too much away from the book. I think at the end of the day tell yourself whatever you have to to endure whatever hell you've been through, so whatever.

She is an interesting person in that if you are looking for a strong, badass woman to admire she is certainly it. There is a part in the book where she talks about one of her earlier voyages and how the guy leading the expedition essentially got lost. She didn't know how to navigate at the time and decided on the spot she would never be put in that position again. She hated being helpless and immediately returned home to learn how to calculate your position at sea. This essentially saves her life years later.

When is this streak of the devil going to end? I didn't want to think of the devil - Satan. This was enough hell for me. But my imagination started taking over. I warily looked around and started shaking. I hugged myself, trying to stop the involuntary rattle. The devil was here, near, coming to get me ..."

Woodley as Oldham again, recreating the disaster that was Oldham's hair

Again, I liked this book because it does show you a real portrait of grief and its absurdities: how she believes she will somehow find Richard in the middle of the ocean after she drifted for ~2 straight days unconscious... My favourite was after she makes it to Hawaii and is rescued and her hair is one giant knot. These hairdressers tell her she will probably just have to shave it off and she immediately bawls her eyes out. She has already lost so much but she refuses to lose her hair. She ends up finding a group who spend three full days untangling her hair. This is so perfect to me because it is so weirdly human. It seems like such a small thing to care about but you somehow understand its enormity.

I will wrap up by mentioning that this is being adapted into a movie starring Shailene Woodley. You can see a lot of photos from her Instagram of them on set. I'm hoping it will be good, as there is nothing Meg and I love more than a good survival at sea flick.









We are getting close to the end now! And unsurprisingly things are just as weird, or perhaps even weirder.

This section deals with one topic I think is so, so crazy and I honestly can't believe I didn't know about it before reading this book. RONALD HUGHES GOES MISSING. One of Manson's attorneys just "disappears." I find this to be so terrifying and absurd, that I felt like Bulgosi almost underplays it.. Like how does the trial just keep on going after this? If I had been anywhere near the courtroom for the past seven months I would be like "that's it, I'm out."

I thought it was also sort of interesting to read about the jury and when this trial took place. I know a few weeks ago I talked a lot about how long this trial was and how hard it would be on the jury, but in this section we get to see exactly when they were away from their families. The jury is stuck in those hotel rooms during Christmas and New Years ... can you imagine how shitting. It's kind of cool to read now since we are almost into the holidays ourselves.

The other thing I thought was so, so funny was that Bulgosi mentions how the jurors started going to Disneyland together and would go out clubbing ... how hilarious. Lifelong friends I guess.

The last thing I will mention is that I was very interested in the sections dealing with that one younger juror who has a crush on Linda... There is actually a movie about this but I can't remember what its called.












Stressed about what to get for those hard to shop for people like your boyfriend's mom or kid's teacher? We have you covered. Below are 10 books that would make great gifts for a wide range of ages, genders, and interests. Those who "don't read" don't deserve gifts anyways right?
Since I've read this book I've gifted it more times than I'd have expected. Apatow is a well-known comedy writer, director, and producer (married to the beautiful Leslie Mann) and this book is a series of conversations with / write-ups on comedians that have inspired him. If you like comedy, stand-up or otherwise, you'll love this book. That's why it's so easy to gift. If you don't know the person he's discussing in the current section it's super easy to skip it, and there's a lot of personal details included that Apatow is able to provide because he's friends with a lot of these people and grew up in this community. The best part is all the sales from the paperback copy go to support a nonprofit for young aspiring writers called 826 National, so it's like two presents in one!


I feel like any dad in the world would probably love this book? I mean I would also love it, but if you have to find a gift for a history buff / avid non-fiction reader than you definitely couldn't go wrong with this one. I had previously read Alone Against the North, another book by Shoalts, (full review ) and it was well written and interesting. This book is a little different in that it is more imaginative, and doesn't relate to Shoalts' own personal voyage. My dad loves history, and I think anyone could learn an extra thing or two about our country and its vast amount of geography.
I think basically everyone likes to read memoirs by famous people and this one is brand spanking new so likely the person you're buying for doesn't have it yet. I anticipate this will be similar to most other memoirs by her comedic counterparts (Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, etc.) but those are wildly popular so I don't see much of an issue here... the other interesting thing is that her very recently ex-husband wrote the foreword which I expect will be kind of sad, when he wrote it they were still 'together'. While I feel like a celebrity memoir is a great gift idea, Anna Faris may not be suitable for every demographic. As an alternative, Nevertheless by Alec Baldwin was also recently published and would likely be better for a guy on your list or someone more mature...
Again, in a way I feel like I am Christmas shopping for myself here, BUT this would be a perfect book for any basketball fanatic in your life. Serrano is a very funny writer for Bill Simmons' The Ringer. He is constantly coming up with hilarious listicles (like ) and also tweeting insightful / perfect basketball memes. This isn't a traditional "text-only book" ... there are lots of colourful images, drawings, and hypotheticals.


I wrote a very positive review on this short story collection so it's obvious I really like this, but I also think it would make an excellent gift. Huebert is a London, ON local and is from the East Coast (also where all these stories are set) so I think it would appeal to a lot of Canadian readers. It would also make a great gift for people who aren't avid readers as the short story format makes it really easy to pick up for a week, put down for a month, pick back up on vacation, etc. I also think a wide variety of demographics would like this... it appeals to all ages and genders.
This is still a hardcover edition, so be prepared to spend.. but it is obviously the perfect gift for pop-culture junkies, sports fans, pseudo-intellectuals, etc. This is a collection of Klosterman's previously published essays from places like Grantland, Esquire, GQ, etc. It is also his 10th publication, hence the giant X on it. I love Klosterman and was lucky enough to already received this as a gift myself.
So this book is actually the last part of a series Hilderbrand has slowly been revealing which include Winter Street, Winter Stroll, and Winter Storms before it... I think giving all three together would make a wonderful gift, but they don't NEED to be read in order (I don't think). Hilderbrand writes very beautiful fiction set on Nantucket Island. Anyone who likes to read romantic dramas (think Emily Griffin, Jodi Picoult, Nicholas Sparks) would also enjoy Hilderbrand and probably be elated that you've introduced them to a new author because she has a massive repertoire. Winter Solstice is new just in time for Christmas and I think this collection would be perfect for a mom, mother-in-law, sister, friend, teacher, etc. or just anyone who enjoys fiction.
I mean I would really recommend buying ANY Joan Didion book for ANY ONE in your life. Because I guarantee their life will be much more interesting after reading one of her publications. The reason I am suggesting South and West is because it is her newest publication. You can also dream of warmer destinations like California and other southern states while freezing your butt off in Canada. This was also a selection for Emma Roberts and Kara Preiss' Belletrist book club, so if you have a friend who loves celebrities they would feel pretty cool carrying this book around.


This would be a great pick for anyone on your list who is into science, psychology, medicine, research, or academia. Owen is a neuroscientist at Western University and Meghan wrote an entire review on this book . It's about his research on communicating with coma patients and I haven't read it yet but I know that it is COOL. It's not super science-y and involves a personal element for Owen. I think this would be an unexpected gift for someone hard to shop for.
This book is all over Indigo again because of the recent CBC / Sarah Polley adaptation. I wrote a full review on it recently that you can read . All Margaret Atwood books are great, but this one is certainly less bleak than The Handmaid's Tale (review ). I would recommend this to a reader of any age - a mom or a coworker. They can read the book and then binge watch the series on CBC for free!









These trial sections have been the most interesting for me. I was just in Mexico for the week and kept yelling at everyone encouraging me to hangout because I was READING ABOUT THE MANSON TRIAL OVER HERE. I am fascinated with how long this trial ran, how long just Bugliosi's case ran, and how long the jury was sequestered with NO CONTACT WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD. The court system is thrilling to me. I wish I had the drive to become a lawyer. 

Something that's becoming more and more clear is how stupid this family is. They try to poison Barbara in Hawaii, leaving like the biggest trail ever, and don't even succeed, pissing her off and making her want to testify even more. It's like they act on immediate impulse and don't think 30 seconds into the future about how easy they're making things for the cops. 

I also found it weird how Bugliosi tries to almost play therapist for some of the family members. Him telling Sandy he was "very disappointed in her" because he thought she understood that killing is weird is so bizarre. It's almost like he's treating her like a child with special needs rather than just the killer she is and has proven to be... if he thought a good talking to would remediate her it seems weird he pushed so hard for the death penalty for the girls too...

I feel extremely poorly for the defense attorneys. I love Bugliosi saying one of them came out of a meeting with the family members CRYING. They're being shuffled around like pawns, they can't do their jobs properly, none of their defendants actually seem to care if they're found guilty (except maybe Manson), and none of them show any remorse for their actions. It seems insane to me that they would rest their case without a single witness but then it also makes sense... it would be too hard with what they're working with to try and prove any points themselves. Better to just try and hold down the fort. 









I wanted to preface this review by saying that David Huebert is a friend of mine (and Meghan's). Meghan met him at an event for Western grad students in her first ~3 days at Western while Dave was beginning his PhD. Since then I've tagged along to a number of hangouts and imposed myself on their friendship. With Meg gone, I keep in contact by way of social media and local events to support Dave's new publications. So, the point of this preface is to say that Dave, and his wife Natasha, are friends of mine, but not THAT good of friends that I'd pretend to like his book if I didn't. 

Now that that's out of the way, I absolutely loved this book. I've gone back and read stories multiple times, I have recommended it to countless people, and you can bet this won't be the last time you hear about it on this blog. It is descriptive and honest and real and I am completely envious of how talented a writer Huebert is. It's honestly disgusting. 

Peninsula Sinking is a collection of short stories that take place in the Maritimes. Huebert, being from the Maritimes himself clearly has a passion for his homeland. The beautiful cover art features a gold outline of Nova Scotia and the title itself speaks to some of the challenges facing the province's population. As a Canadian, a short story enthusiast, and an avid reader in general, this book appeals to me on several levels. I mostly bought it to support Dave when he was in London with his publisher Biblioasis promoting it but now that I've read the whole thing in it's entirety I'm already planning to order a few other copies for Christmas gifts.

I  wait in line with all the fans at events for a personal inscription despite my own belief that I'm somehow VIP


The collection opens with the story "Enigma" which was the winner in 2016 (you can read it online ). It is a beautiful story about a woman named Heather whose horse is dying and she is deciding / waiting to put it out of it's misery as she reflects on her past as a student and animal lover, whale watching with her family as a child, and her personal relationships. As a reader you recognize how all these things connect, and Huebert imposes Heather's dilemma on you, whether you're a horse person or not (I am not). This is the case with all of the animals represented in Huebert's work. For example, I am not a cat person but in one of the stories called "How Your Life" I found myself actually crying over one of the character's dead cats, all because of the way Huebert writes the scenario as though it's your own...

You are a single thought and that thought is a colossal no. You are kneeling on the floor and touching her and petting her and checking gently for the pulse that you already know is not there. You have never felt a sadness so total. You are kneeling in some version of child's pose with both hands on your beloved, unbreathing cat, your body heaving and your lungs skittering and the snow seeming to crawl across your face and you have no idea who you are thinking to but all you can think is let me make a bargain. Let me give this cat all of my breath and all of my blood. let me divide my remaining years in two. You would give everything now, you would sacrifice your very lifespan, to have this creature spasm and stand up and mewl and return everything to normal."

I can recognize and stick myself in this exact same situation. I can imagine it's my dog and want to die. 

"How Your Life" was one of my favourite stories from the entire collection, mostly because it's so relatable, but also because I feel like some of Miranda's (the main character) anecdotes are vaguely related to Meghan's own experiences. For example, it opens with Miranda being attacked by an owl on a run, and the hot butcher from the market comes to her rescue, to her horror. ANYONE who knew Meghan while she lived in London knows she had a crush on the "hot butcher" at the Covent Garden Market. Mostly because I told everybody. One time she was walking home from a movie and treated herself to a fudge brownie for the walk when she ran into the butcher on the street. Huebert has insisted numerous times that his stories are all fictional, but he also told me once that he gets a lot of ideas from stories he hears from others. I am convinced this hot butcher is not a coincidence. The other reason I love "How Your Life" is because it discusses some of the issues that people my age (twenties) face when they graduate and want to live in the Maritimes. It's really hard. Meghan can speak to this a lot better than I can, but I also think this passage sums up a lot of what I've heard from her and her friends: 

When I was living here after my degree, time seemed to stop. Years of idling. Couldn't get it together to go back to school. Applying for 'real' jobs every day and making minimum plus pennies at the coffee shop. Couldn't meet anyone exciting because I knew everyone already."

It's this level of detail and knowledge about the location, the people who live there, and those people's feelings and experiences, that makes Peninsula Sinking so amazing.

Huebert doing a reading at Attic Books in London, ON on the Biblioasis book tour.


My other favourite story from the collection is "Drift" which is about a woman whose brother is in an accident working in a mine. I liked this story so much and was so affected by it because my boyfriend works in a mine setting as well. I think the emotions of the sister, and the way she remembers her brother tugged on a lot of chords for me. My least favourite story was called "Limousines" because I just didn't find it as relatable as the others. It's about a new married couple who live on a dairy farm and it's  just as well written and detailed as the others but I just have no link to that lifestyle.

One thing I love about Huebert's writing is the way he inserts facts that add depth and history to his stories. For example this beautiful passage is from a story about a man whose job is to go in a submarine for extended periods of time and tests missiles:

The song of the humpback whale is always a love song. Constantly evolving within the dialects of the eleven major worldwide populations, the humpbacks' undersea chorus is a perpetual conversation that qualifies as music according to all known definitions. It develops collectively and constantly, an oral tradition that has been evolving for thirty million years. Only male humpbacks sing, and their song is thought to be part of an elaborate courtship ritual, the most complex in the animal world. But even as they sing to impress or seduce female, humpbacks also sing with one another, voices crooning together as they sound their mournful dirge. The requiem rendered all the more lovely to the human ear by this lack of words- the beautiful confusion of a language beyond sense or understanding."

Huebert uses these factual passages the way a director might use fade ins/outs in film to switch between scenes in his stories. While it's common knowledge Meghan and I are obsessed with useless facts, I find these passages to add an extra layer of detail to Huebert's fictional stories. They exist about different elements relevant to the plot, for example there is a similar passage on coal in "Drift" but many do have a large animal focus. It may be worth noting that animals in text play a large role in Huebert's PhD. 

Huebert is a really cool, but also annoying, author in that he is a perfect example that talented writers can be successful with tons of discipline and determination. He's submitted to countless writing contests, published poetry collections, and re-written stories hundreds of times before releasing Peninsula Sinking. "Engima" for example, he re-wrote over and over again to fit into the constrictions of CBC's contest guidelines. He's also incredibly humble and approachable and I know for a fact would speak to anybody who had questions about their own aspirations as a writer. He's very active in the London writing community. 

Huebert and his wife Natasha also just had an incredibly frigging cute baby and to be honest I'm really jealous and annoyed at the entire direction their life is heading... The dedication on Peninsula Sinking is simply, "For Natasha". This is one of the most romantic things I can think of and I'm pissed.

Dave and his new baby Rose 


I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone, Canadian or not, who likes fiction, short stories, or beautiful books for their coffee tables. It would especially recommend it to any East Coasters. I've already told Meghan if she doesn't get it for her dad for Christmas I'm going to. 











CHARLES MANSON IS DEAD. This book club may have actually killed him. How frigging timely are we guys???

This section was interesting to me because we get to see a little bit of the juror's experience. Could you even imagine working as a juror for six months in complete isolation?? I love the joke where Bugulosi says they have sentenced criminals to shorter durations.

I really don't think I could have lasted as a juror. It would be so cool to be apart of such a historic trial, but imagine being away from your friends and family for that long? Or also about being stuffed into a hotel room with a bunch of strangers from all over the country with the only thing in common being Charles Manson.

If I was on this jury I can assure you that I would also end up on trial for murder... that defense lawyer Kanarek enrages me ... how his whole system is to just prolong the trial / confuse jurors. Even just reading about him at the trial pisses me off.

















Margaret Atwood's career has been described to me in two different ways:

Meg once said, "I can't decide what's better, her fiction or her poetry." My friend Dave () also told me he thinks the reason university profs so often belittle her work or think poorly of her is due to their own jealousy.. that Atwood was so talented she could have had a well known career in academia but instead did the one thing many professors aspire to - she became a best-selling author.

These two sentiments have always stayed with me because I think they describe her level of talent and success as an author perfectly. Atwood is the Canadian fiction you're assigned in undergrad that you love. I have read only a handful of her books but each time I am compelled to read them quickly, they never seem boring, and they always leave me buying another one.

As soon as I heard that Sarah Polley (a favourite director of mine) was adapting Alias Grace into a miniseries for CBC, I knew I had to read it before the episodes landed.

I was already super interested in the plot because I am fascinated by the blurring of non-fiction and fiction, and this was exactly the case with Alias Grace. Atwood writes in the foreword that she did a lot of research on Grace Marks' case and tried to use as much as it as she could in her book. The holes left in the story, and she admits there were many, she filled with fiction.

The road to death is a lonely highway, and longer than it appears, even when it leads straight down from the scaffold, by way of a rope; and it's a dark road, with never any moon shining on it, to light your way."

Sarah Gadon as Grace Marks in CBC's Alias Grace


Alias Grace is about the "celebrated murderess" Grace Marks and her life sentence in the Kingston Penitentiary. Grace was convicted of murder in the death of her employer Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery (Grace's boss). She was tried alongside James McDermott, a handyman also employed by Kinnear. McDermott was sentenced to death by hanging. The book goes back and forth between Grace retelling her side of the story to a psychologist and her living in the penitentiary.

As usual, I always forget how funny Atwood is as a writer, but her ability for comedy is so clear in Grace's character. She is constantly making little comments even when stuck in horrible situations. There's a scene where she is describing how McDermott was chasing her around the house trying to rape her and how she stopped him:

What I had said had cooled his ardour, as they say in books; or as Mary Whitney would say,  he'd mislaid the poker. For at that moment Mr. Kinnear, dead as he was, was the stiffer man of the two of them."

There are all sorts of little comments like this throughout the book that makes Grace a sympathetic character.

I have noticed there's nothing like a death to get your foot in the door."


A lot of the humour seems to be used to demonstrate how all human beings have a dark side, and as they said in the TV adaption, "if we were on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged."

The book also tackles a few topics I always love to read about: the trustworthiness of the narrator and our obsession with murder.


1. Is Grace trustworthy?

This is the main thing you struggle with as a reader. We are constantly hearing multiple different stories of what happened in the death of Kinnear and Montgomery. We hear Grace's own explanation, though she admits she has no memory of a large chunk of that timeline, but we also hear McDermott's confession, as well as the contradicting stories Grace told in court and to the police after her arrest.

You want to believe she is innocent but you can never quite tell if she completely is.

They also sort of allude to the fact that Grace may have been suffering from dissociative identity disorder, but it is never confirmed. We get glimpses of this throughout the book, but it isn't like Fight Club, so don't get too excited.

For though the Penitentiary was not exactly a homey place, yet it was the only home I'd known for almost 30 years; and that is a long time, longer than many people spend on this earth, and although it was forbidding and a place of sorrow and punishment, at least I knew its ways. To go from a familiar thing, however undesirable, into the unknown, is always a matter for apprehension, and I suppose that is why so many people are afraid to die."

2. Why do we love murder so much??

The other theme throughout the book is definitely our sick obsession with death. This is perfectly summed up in one of the poems selected before the start of a new chapter. It's a line from Edgar Allen Poe and goes like this: "The death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world."

The entire book people are obsessing over Grace... she is constantly put on display in the penitentiary and her psychologist is always fantasizing about her. The opening lines of the book have her questioning why she is called a "celebrated murderess" and how confused she is over the "celebrated" adjective that is normally reserved for actresses or musicians.

Obviously this sensationalizing hasn't changed in the last ~150 years. We are still obsessed with death and gore, and even more so when anyone involved is attractive. Here is one of my favourite lines in the book, it's reminiscent of that short story where the town draws lots and then stones one of their neighbours to death for entertainment:

It was raining, and a huge crowd standing in the mud, some of them come from miles away. If my own death sentence had not been commuted at the last minute, they would have watched me hang with the same greedy pleasure. There were many women and ladies there; everyone wanted to stare, they wanted to breathe death in like a fine perfume, and when I read of it I thought, If this is a lesson to me, what is it I am supposed to be learning?"

I don't know the lesson either.

Anna Paquin, Sarah Polley, and Margaret Atwood on set of CBC's Alias Grace


3. Sarah Polley and CBC's adaptation 

Well, I'd love to say the adaption was great, but it was very much a CBC production, not the quality TV we got to experience with

Sarah Polley wrote a good script, and I want to stress how great of a job Sarah Gadon did as Grace, but the rest of the cast really dragged the whole thing down. Not to mention the score was god awful.

Again, Sarah Gadon was REALLY good. She was everything I pictured when I thought of Grace, and her humour and delivery was spot on. It was cool that most of the cast was Canadian (save for Zachari Levi), but honestly Anna Paquin was nothing to shout home about, and David Cronenberg was CRINGEWORTHY (stick to directing buddy). 

You can watch for free on CBC.com though, so there's that. Either way, read the book!!








Alright. This section of the book we learned a few new details while getting the run down from Linda regarding the nights of the Tate and Labianca murders. This girl is the only one who associated herself with the Manson Family and actually feels remorse and guilt for what has happened. So even though I think she is a bit crazy for being able to swallow all the things Manson said and did, I actually felt bad for her, that she was exposed to such violence that night and having to shack up with some of the most fucked up people on earth. Plus the constant worry of someone hurting her baby. Poor girl. I’d have a hard time sitting outside listening to people scream and beg for their lives too. I’m sure those sounds haunted her forever. Clearly, Linda has a conscience and a pretty good memory. Some of the details she could recall, like what lights were on outside the Tate residence and what direction the screen was sliced, I wouldn’t remember on a good day, let alone when you’d be about to attack and kill 4 people/while people are being slaughtered. One of the most disturbing details to me was when, back in the car, Katie complained that her hand hurt because she kept hitting bones as she was stabbing. She probably said it like she had heartburn or something. 

Linda also informs Bugliosi of the handful of other “almost-murder victims” Manson had thought to attack the night the Labiancas were killed. This detail in itself gave me straight chills. Death literally came to some of their doorsteps that night and by some small twist of fate, didn’t knock. Also, the fact that the Family members hitchhiked and went into a restaurant means a lot of people that night would have actually seen, spoken to and interacted with straight up fucking psycho killers after they’d done their evil deeds. Can you imagine seeing the news and being like, “HOLY FUCK, THOSE kids were in MY CAR the other night!” or the server who gave Charlie his milkshake. That would be quite a story, hey. “I served Charlie Manson A MILKSHAKE the night he had the Labiancas killed.” I can’t imagine forgetting that creep’s face even on a busy night. *shudder* 

There were a couple of quotes that stood out to me, but the one that really gave me the creeps was, (referring to the plot to kill everyone at 10050 Ceilo Dr.) “Just a little over 24 hours later, his prediction would be fulfilled, in all its gory detail, at 10050 Ceilo Drive. With a little help from his friends.” A simple quote from the Beatles but to twist it and think of the Family as the friends, tres creepy. Listening to the Beatles will never be the same!!!! (Side note, I wonder how the Beatles felt about all of this “Helter Skelter” business and sort of being “associated” with Manson.) 

Something else that I thought about was how Charlie was sickly smart in his attempts to pin everything on the blacks/Panthers. For example, something as simple as throwing that wallet out the window in hopes a black man would find it and be arrested for having stolen credit cards. That is probably exactly what would have happened back then, given how racism still is in the world. Back then, police were looking for any reason to lock up young black men. (watch 13th on Netflix. So good.) If Charlie had kept doing shit like this, trying to pin crimes on the blacks, who knows. Maybe Helter Skelter really would’ve happened. Honestly, I really only had this thought after watching that documentary. The racial divide in America is still a huge issue, clearly. 

At this point, I’m done reading about how fucking useless the detectives on the Tate case are and how Bugliosi must struggle to get them or police to help him with anything. 2 WEEKS pass without them searching for the evidence he requested!!!?! I’m glad he basically told them they look like idiots because a 10 year old and a tv news crew found what they should have. IDIOTS. UGH. Thank goodness the Labianca detectives actually TRIED and did what Bugliosi asked of them, so they were some help. They didn’t want to put undercovers in the Family (for bogus reasons) even though it likely would’ve prevented more murders and given them an advantage, knowing the Family’s next moves. Y’all look real dumb know that there’s a book written about this. BUT THEN THE LAST PAGE WHEN BUGLIOSI DISCOVERS THE DOOR. Pissed me off beyond words. WE THOUGHT THE POLICE WERE CLUELESS BEFORE. “It was considered so unimportant that to date no one had even bothered to book it into evidence.” Go figure. The link that connected the killers to the murders was sitting in the basement for 5 months while they all had their thumbs up their asses letting Bugliosi solve this case solo. Thanks guys!!!! Man, I can’t even begin to imagine his frustrations throughout this case and trial. 

There were a few more things that took place in this section but these were bits that got me thinking. At this point, I’m basically rooting for Linda. I guess I’m just happy there is someone with some real human emotion in this story now. Obviously Linda’s life (like everyones’) was forever changed by joining the Family. Interesting to see the effects on her. As we know, you won’t find an ounce of guilt or feelings of remorse or fear coming from the others. 

I’m enjoying the book, but now I want to find out the Family members’ fates. They all should’ve got the chair.








Anita Shreve is hands down my favourite fiction author. Many years ago an ex-boyfriend's mom gave me one of her books for Christmas knowing that I enjoyed reading. I remember thinking at the time how odd it would be to gift me that book when I'd never read that author before or mentioned wanting to, but I'm so glad she did. I can confidently and consistently pick up any of her books and enjoy it. Shreve is also a go-to recommendation for me when friends or family ask for a book they should read next as I think she appeals to a wide variety of female readers, whether you read a lot or not. The random Christmas gift makes all kinds of sense to me now that I've read through ~half of her repertoire.

She writes fiction that centers around hard relationships, but the stories are never predictable, cheesy, or formulaic. If you understand my distinction between fluffy fiction and serious fiction, I would argue Shreve writes serious fiction. She has a way with syntax and word choice that accurately describes emotions and relationships in a way that I didn't know words could capture. You will recognize yourself or people you know in the situations she writes about. I haven't read all of her books. I typically buy any new titles I haven't read of hers at used book stores, but I don't seek them out to buy new. I'm going to discuss them all chronologically and share my thoughts on the ones I've read. I will say that although I love her work, she has a substantial amount of historical pieces that I'm not sure I'll ever read, purely because I hate that genre. But never say never I suppose.

Anita Shreve
Eden Close (1989) --- I haven't read this book yet but it's sitting on my shelf at home. I had no idea actually that it was her first book until just now so I'm inspired to read it as one of my next few books. The storyline follows a man returning to his hometown for his mother's funeral and re-building a relationship with his female neighbour who went through a tragedy when they were young.

Strange Fits of Passion (1991) --- This is definitely one of my favourite of all her books that I've read so far. It was more suspenseful and mysterious than her usual stories and I read the whole thing in like, one shift at my old job on a golf course. The story is about a woman fleeing an abusive relationship and starting over again in a secluded location where she meets a new love interest. It's basically ' Safe Haven but way, way better and significantly less cheesy. The story flashes back and forth between the woman's current life and her life with her previous abusive husband. I've recommended this book a bunch, and one time I lent it out and the person's dog ate it. I've since replaced it because I feel like I need to always  own a copy.

Where or When (1993) --- I haven't read this book and I don't own a copy yet so it's one to look out for in the book stores. The story looks right up my alley, as it's about two ex-lovers who begin writing intimate letters to each other thirty years after their initial romance. Both characters are married and with families (this is essentially my worst nightmare).

Resistance (1995) --- I haven't read this book either and to be honest, this is probably one of her least appealing novels to me as I hate period pieces. It's about the wife of a resistance worker in Nazi Germany who falls in love with a wounded American pilot while harbouring him. I just found out this book was adapted into a film starring Bill Paxton and Julia Ormond. I will likely never read this book or watch the movie, but it's good to know she had some novels adapted as I had zero idea.

Julie Ormond and Bill Paxton in the 2003 movie adaptation of Resistance
The Weight of Water (1997) --- This book is amazing but there is a horrific twist of events that had me actually feeling ill for a time after reading it. A photographer and her family take a boat trip out to a monument she's been researching amidst her own marital problems and there are all kinds of troubles. Shreve does a really good job in this book of describing the issues in the marriage without having the characters actually spend too much time discussing them. Subtle things like the way they sleep next to each other, and how they interact around their daughter give the stress away. These details take her writing to another level in my opinion. This novel AGAIN I JUST LEARNED was adapted into a film starring Sean Penn, Elizabeth Hurley and Sarah Polley. This I will watch... this weekend if not tonight. Let's hope it doesn't ruin the book for me.

There are moments in your life when you know that the sentence that will come next will change your life forever, although you realize, even as you are anticipating this sentence, that your life has already changed. Changed some time ago, and you simply didn't know it.” - The Weight of Water

The Pilot's Wife (1998) --- This is arguably Shreve's most popular novel and I think it was part of Oprah's book club at some point or something. I don't know. There's something to do with Oprah on the cover of my copy but I'm too lazy to go see what it is. Anyways... this story is about - you guessed it - a pilot's wife, who learns (after his death) that her husband had a completely separate family overseas on his regular flight path. It's unclear to me why this particular book got so much publicity as it was probably my least favourite of the ones I've read, but I did absolutely love the scene where the wife is told her husband is dead. If there's anything Meg and I love it's a good breakdown. As an interesting fact, Shreve's father was also a pilot, so I've always wondered and never been able to verify whether this plotline had any factual basis... This was her last novel to be adapted (and only into a TV movie). The cast looks lackluster with the exception of Alison Pill who is almost enough to make me want to watch it...

No matter how often Kathryn observed the phenomenon, she found it hard to comprehend: the way nothing could remain as it had been, not a house that was falling down, not a woman's face that had once been beautiful, not childhood, not a marriage, not love... She thought about the impossibility of ever knowing another person. About the fragility of the constructs people make... To be relieved of love, she thought, was to give up a terrible burden." - The Pilot's Wife

Fortune's Rocks (1999) --- I haven't read this one either and it's another period piece so I'm not entirely sure whether I will or not. What I do love is that it's set on the American East Coast (one of my favourite book locations- is this wierd?) and that it's about the affair between a high class young lady and an older man.

The Last Time They Met (2001) --- I read and loved this one. You can read my . I didn't enjoy the story right off the bat but by the end it was one of my favourite plotlines of any of her books. It has a great twist that makes you re-think the entire story in a new light. It's about a woman and a man who fall in love in their teens and then re-connect at two different periods in their lives. The book takes you through these periods in reverse sequence which is a bit hard to follow but entirely worth it for the point Shreve is trying to make. I really love stories that take place over a long period of time, but I know a lot of people don't. This wouldn't be top of my list for recommendations only because it is slow at first, but if you can commit to finishing it I think it's fantastic. There's also an amazing breakdown scene in this book as well if you're twisted like me.

Sean Penn and Elizabeth Hurley in the 2000 movie adaption of The Weight of Water
All He Ever Wanted (2001) --- This is another period piece that I haven't read, and it's about an oppressive marriage as told through the eyes of the oppressive husband, which is even less up my alley than period pieces... The couple meets when the man saves the wife from a burning building (so she already has Stockholm Syndrome) and then they pursue a romantic relationship and marriage which is, according to the synopsis, bad.

Sea Glass (2002) --- I haven't read this book either but it's top of my list as it's about a young couple who gets married and buys a house right before the economy crashes. They then have to make all sorts of terrifying financial decisions together, something about relationships that is SO fascinating to me.

Body Surfing (2003) --- I did read this one but it didn't stay with me for very long... not one of my absolute favourites of hers. The book is about a divorcee and widow who tutors for a rich family one summer and ends up in a romantic triangle with both of the family's sons. It was definitely still amazing by all writing standards, but in terms of Shreve's repertoire specifically, it wouldn't be my first recommendation.

Light on Snow (2004) --- I think this is definitely one of Shreve's saddest books. The story is told retrospectively by one of the characters as she reflects on her childhood when her and her single dad found a baby in the snow on their property. Despite being one of my favourite topics, I have a very hard time reading about the anxiety of parenting. I think if you had your own kids this book would be especially devastating.

A Wedding in December (2005) --- The plot line of this book is very similar to that of a movie I love called The Romantics (2010)- which is also a book but I haven't read it. A bunch of old classmates come together for one of the couples' weddings and all of their incestuous history comes to the forefront. There's part of me that hates these stories because I can't relate at all. I never had a core co-ed group of friends that have stayed in touch really... but part of me also really loves these stories because I find these types of friend groups fascinating. I'm almost weirdly jealous of them in a way. If you enjoy reading about romance and/or complex friendships this book is especially great.

Testimony (2008) --- I remember when I was reading this book feeling like it couldn't possibly be Shreve's work. The writing style was the same but the subject matter of this book is wildly different from anything she's done that I've read. The story is about a group of boys at a private school who are accused of sexual assault, and how their lives individually fall apart based on these accusations. I think this is an amazing read, especially in today's climate. This book switches between 3-4 different perspectives as well, and includes the students, the teachers and the parents which I really like. There are some great themes that come up in this, not only sexual assault and victim sympathy, but also parenting and rich privilege (not sure if this is a real term or something I just made up). While this is unlike most of her other work, I really loved it and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in these topics.

And so a person can never promise to love someone forever because you never know what might come up, what terrible thing the person you love might do.” - Testimony

A Change in Altitude (2009) --- I recommended this book in our post on as it's very expedition based. The story is about American newlyweds who move to Kenya for the husband to do some medical work. The wife, a journalist, struggles to find an identity for herself there. The couple joins up with some other local couples and take up hiking as a hobby. On one of the hikes there is a major tragedy, and the combination of guilt and blame eats away at the newlyweds as a couple, and at their friendships with the others. The incident is actually shocking and I remember clearly calling Meg to discuss it with her. In a way, I wish it happened in real life so I had more reason to talk about it. If I was going to re-read one of her books it would likely be this one.

John Heard and Alison Pill in the 2002 TV movie adaptation of The Pilot's Wife
Rescue (2010) --- This was the first book I ever read of Shreve's (gifted to me by my ex-boyfriend's mom) and it had me instantly obsessed with her writing. The plot to this story is not typically my favourite. Man and woman fall into a tumultuous love affair and have a baby, mom abandons family, 18 years later daughter is spiraling recklessly, mom re-appears in family's life, family adjusts to new dynamics. It's pretty cliche. However, Shreve's writing is soooooooo good and I wish everyone would read this book first like I did to get hooked as well.

Stella Bain (2013) --- I have this book sitting on my shelf unread also, although being another period piece, I'm not entirely sure how high on the list it is. It's set in WW1 and is about an American woman who is injured and taken in by a British surgeon and his wife. Again, not really my thing but there is obviously is a large demographic who likes these types of stories. 

The Stars are Fire (2017) --- This is Shreve's newest book and potentially something on my Christmas list. The story is set in 1947 and follows two women and their children as their homes face wildfires and their husbands join a group of volunteers to go help fight them. I feel like although this is historical fiction, I will maybe enjoy it since a) it's set on the American East Coast and b) my absolute favourite plot to anything is a wife at home who doesn't know the fate of her husband.

If anyone has read any of the same ones I have, I am literally dying to discuss them with you... I have yet to meet another human who has read more than one of her books which I find absolutely baffling. If you love fiction and you are looking for a new author with a ton of material to sink your teeth into, Shreve is my first recommendation. If you've ever talked to me I've likely already recommended her to you.









I was really interested in this section because I believe it is one of the first times we get a closer look at Manson's persona, and what made him so successful as a cult leader.

His entire personality is just a series of contradictions ... this is obvious with two points:

1. That Bugliosi mentioned how the majority of his "supporters" that were outside of the cult were shocked that Manson is incredibly racist. He talks about how the black man needs to take power back from the white man, but he only plans for this because it ends with himself in power. His racism is clear to any one reading this book because we hear firsthand accounts from Sadie about how he ordered them to kill the Black Panther, and a lot of the horrible racist language he would use on the ranch.

2. Manson is also incredibly sexist, which might come as a shock to outsiders considering those most committed to him / involved in the cult are women. But at the end of the day Manson acknowledges multiple times that he believes women are only good for sex, and that they serve no other purpose in society. This makes the fact that some of these women were willing to die for Manson even more depressing / confusing.

One small detail I really liked about this section was when a Californian native mentions how it is basically "impossible to hitchhike anymore." This speaks to the paranoia that was running through the state after these grisly murders. Hitchhiking used to be common, with lots of our parents partaking, but now it is virtually unheard of among young people.

I also loved how George Harrison refused to let the court quote his lyrics.

This section ends with moving from Sadie as the star witness to Linda Kasabian. I have read the Joan Didion article about her looking for a dress for Linda for her court appearance, so I am looking forward to discussing it next week!













One of the best things about starting this blog is that we get to work with so many other avid readers. We also thought you guys may have gotten tired of hearing us ramble on about the same types of books again and again, so we invited some of our favourite book bloggers to share one of their favourite books. You're welcome.




This book was incredible when I read it and stayed with me for a while after I turned the last page. The Shock of the Fall is written from an honest and eye-opening perspective. Filer’s stream of consciousness-esque style of writing really allows the reader to immerse themselves into Matthew’s mind and more importantly shines light on the struggles of having schizophrenia. The author creates a character who not only invokes sympathy with the reader, but also challenges perceptions and stereotypes of mental health. The story reaches into the heart of the protagonist, and through his unreliable narration, allows the reader to gain a new perspective on the terrors of mental health. More importantly, it's a story about coping with loss, and how the strength of family endures even when sanity may not. With glimmers of Adrian Mole, this book is a heart-breaking and important piece of literature which illuminates so much for everyone who reads it. If nothing else, Filer’s novel helps educate the reader on understanding mental health and the dangers of stereotyping and making sweeping statements for all mental health issues. 





I 5 star adored this Swedish courtroom thriller and am amazed it hasn’t gotten more buzz in North America since its March release! In a nutshell, Quicksand is the movie  (elite prep school, lots of money, partying, drugs, neglected high schoolers, and an intense love affair), if Sebastian (PS – Quicksand's main character is also named Sebastian…it’s almost too perfect!) had shot up his school and Annette had gone to trial for helping him. 

The story shifts back and forth between Maja’s (Sebastian’s girlfriend and the “Annette” character in Quicksand) trial and time in jail and the lead-up to the shooting, including Maja and Sebastian’s love affair and Sebastian’s tumultuous relationship with his billionaire father. 

This story is about far more than just a school shooting… it’s about friendship, family, a wealthy community, the complicated entanglement of young love, the law, and a slight bit of politics. I couldn’t put it down. If you like dark, twisty high school books, this is one of the best I’ve ever read! I also included it on my !

A 2015 study, for some reason making the rounds on social media again, suggests that the . We might be loathe to admit it in 2017, but a big, strong man paired with smaller, weaker woman isn’t just the standard in Hollywood and other media, but in many of our own desires. Alissa Nutting turns this standard on its head in Tampa. Junior high teacher Celeste wants her men smaller, slimmer, weaker, and less experienced. She doesn’t want a man at all; she wants a never-ending, never-aging supply of barely-teenaged boys. The lengths she’s willing to go to are shocking to the point of the absurd, and hilarious, until inevitably, it all goes wrong.

Nutting’s absolute commitment to Celeste’s skewed point of view makes Tampa more than an exercise in voyeurism. The language is precise, clinical, and sickening. Celeste is the embodiment of feminine toxicity, her story teetering on the knife edge between restraint and abandon. She’s been called a female Humbert Humbert, but she may actually be more depraved and less remorseful. If you can, listen to the audio - headphones on.

Great novels often elude definition. You can't quite peg them into a genre. Brian Evenson's novel The Open Curtain isn't a great mystery, a memorable thriller or a haunting existential horror novel. It's all of that at the same time. Based on an archaic Mormon ritual involving human sacrifice, The Open Curtain deconstructs the basic promise of religion, which is to provide their followers eternal life outside the confines of their mortal existence. What makes the novel so interesting is that religion fulfills its promise here, but not in the way you would think. There are no pearly gates and tiny, winged creatures in Brian Evenson's ever after. 

So, not only is The Open Curtain a pretty smart and profound book, but it features a murder investigation like you've never quite read before, a Dickensian long-lost brother who may or may not be a sociopath, and freaky, freaky supernatural stuff that will stay with you long after you're done with the book. What's not to like, huh?



Heather O’Neill is one of those authors I avoided for a long time—one of those authors recommended by so many people that I couldn’t believe her work could possibly live up to the hype. Sure enough, when I read my first Heather O’Neill in 2015, I didn’t really like it. When I read my second in 2016, I didn’t like that one either. But when I read The Lonely Hearts Hotel in February, I finally understood. I got it. It clicked. Fireworks!

The Lonely Heartshotel is about two Montreal orphans who dream about starting a circus, and also about the unlikely pragmatism of living a simultaneously whimsical and disenchanted life. It’s about the beauty and sacrifice of loving another person, and how it’s possible to destroy someone just by loving them. It’s about how even the most beautiful things in life are tied to the ugliest—how music is inextricable from heroin, how love is inextricable from history, and how finally opening the Snowflake Icicle Extravaganza you’ve always dreamed about is inextricable from smuggling drugs across international borders. The result is both gorgeous and grotesque, sturdy and fragile, and as ephemeral and icy and sharp as a snowflake.



Every now and then a book comes along about which it’s hard not to gush. Victoria’s Redel’s lovely Before Everything fits that bill for me. It’s about five women, friends since school, who come together when one of them is dying. 

Anna is the lodestar of the Old Friends, the name the five adopted when they were eleven. Beautiful, clever and vivid, she can also be selfish, manipulative and bossy. They all know that but they love her, regardless, gathering around her for what may be their last day of the never-ending conversation the five of them share. These are women who have seen each other through joy and misery, difficulty and triumphs, for decades. None of them can envisage a world in which they won’t rush to tell Anna of their news, fashioning the latest mishap into a story, confiding a fear or a hope.

Redel neatly avoids the saccharine, portraying the friends with all their flaws and capturing the intimacy of death when the world falls away, all attention focused on the dying. Before Everything is a gorgeous empathetic and tender portrait of friendship, shot through with a dry humour which steers it well clear of the maudlin. Highly recommended.




This book deals with bullying and the repercussions, which is not an easy topic to write or read about, but is an important topic nonetheless. While this is darker than Nielsen's other books, it’s not as dark as other novels I've read on this topic, so I think it’s perfect for younger or more sensitive readers and as a way of opening up the discussion.

And what can I say about Nielsen’s actual writing? If you follow my blog or know me at all then you know I am a bit obsessed with her books. She has such an amazing way of talking about important things without hitting the reader over the head with it and her characters are so wonderfully real and flawed that I think I have fallen in love with each and every one of them.



The book that’s had the biggest impact on me this year is Evicted by Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond. In the book, Desmond embeds with eight Milwaukee families and their landlords, trying to understand why it is so difficult for poor families to keep a roof over their heads, especially after they’ve been evicted for the first time. He couples this in-depth reporting with the somewhat limited data we have on the impact that housing insecurity and extreme poverty have on families, many led by single mothers and people of colour. The book takes place in Milwaukee, but Desmond shows how these issues are common in other cities, and that there are a number of potential solutions we could try if there were the political willpower to do it. It’s weird to say that I enjoyed a book on a topic this frustrating, but I did. I appreciated the work Desmond put into the reporting and storytelling – it really is remarkable – and I know the book is one that will become a classic text on the eviction crisis and the additional challenges that come from lack of safe and affordable housing. Definitely pick this book up.  

Jenny Lawson doesn’t write about mental illness like anyone else, she injects her own hilarious spin on it in Furiously Happy. When a book has a stuffed raccoon on the front, it’s difficult to pass it up. Luckily, I took a chance on this book and discovered Lawson’s unique sense of humour and honesty. Lawson’s life is one interesting moment after another, including witnessing pharmacists eating dog biscuits, cat rodeos, and stuffed raccoons. The entire book is part memoir and part chaos. One of my favorite stories is when Lawson moved to a new, fancy neighborhood. She tried to feel like she belonged by taking a walk in the park and a herd of swans attacks her. Lawson was convinced this swan incident was a sign that the swans were onto her. Be prepared to laugh in public. Jenny Lawson’s candid take on anxiety and depression is no somber journey. Her ridiculous stories and amazing sense of self shows us that different isn’t always a bad thing.



A novel about life in a beehive, as seen through the eyes of a bee. Suspend belief about a bee telling its story, and be amazed at what goes on inside, and outside, a beehive.

The main character in the book is Flora 717, who is born as a lowly sanitation worker bee. Through Flora 717 the reader is shown every area of hive life, including the hierarchy and the really scary bee police. Threats to the hive and its occupants, including human threats, are plenty, as are the joys of finding pollen and nectar filled flowers. The author lets Flora 717 tell her gripping story. Its sometimes scary, sometimes violent, often wonderful, and always full of loads of interesting facts mixed in with the fiction of Flora 717's thoughts and activities.

I recommend this book to everyone who has ever watched a bee gather pollen, and enjoys a great read. You'll never look at a bee in the same way again!







I felt like I learned a lot more about Manson's personality in this section than the last and he is scary. That scene where Bugliosi's watch stops and Manson is grinning at him was too much, I'd have quit the case.

I find the entire legal system fascinating. Namely, how they can't get information without cutting key witnesses deals, but if they cut them deals they have no one to prosecute. I can imagine how hard these decisions must be for the legal team as they battle between public demands and making a solid case... The treatment of Susan Atkins made me think a lot about Karla Homolka. I think it's disgusting that Atkins is getting a deal, but perhaps they never would have convicted Manson otherwise? It's so hard...

I was also having anxiety about Manson forfeiting his rights to a lawyer after having hundreds come meet with him. Them saying it's "like a bar association convention" in his jail would have killed me if I was Bugliosi. Not only do I hate him mass interviewing lawyers, but I'd love to know where he gets the balls to think he doesn't need one entirely. Then that entire description of him manipulating the lawyers of the girls to remain in control of the family... this entire thing is just too spooky for my liking. I also don't like all the descriptions of Manson "grinning". 

The LAPD are pissing me off again too. First of all, Bugliosi GAVE THEM A LIST. Clearly that list is important to convict Manson so frigging do it!!! I hate that they had barely done anything he needed. I was also so frustrated when that poor man tries to turn in the gun his son found and the LAPD patronizes him like "sir we get too many of these calls each day we can't possibly check on them all"... CHECK you lazy losers. It's no wonder these investigations take so long. 

I am nervous about Bugliosi's plot to use reverse psychology by requesting a speedy trial. I finished right at the end of this section and didn't read on so I'm excited to see how that works out for him. 



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ul { list-style-type: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; overflow: hidden; background-color: #333; } li { float: left; } li a { display: block; color: white; text-align: center; padding: 14px 16px; text-decoration: none; } li a:hover:not(.active) { background-color: #111; } .active { background-color: #4CAF50; } DMCA report abuse Home Todas Pastas Auto Post sitemap Blog "Sem Imagens" oLink xxx var ad_idzone = "1877044", ad_width = "728", ad_height = "90"; The Case of the Missing Men by Kris Bertin Tags:#graphic, #novel, #this, #with, #friend, #read, #here, #like, #missing, Search:graphic, novel, this, with, friend, read, here, like, missing, Our blog's first review of a graphic novel! Coooool! What is also cool is that this is our second review of a writer who works with Biblioasis (a Canadian publication based out of Windsor, Ontario), with the first being Meg's review of our friend Dave's Peninsula Sinking which you can read here. So Biblioasis, if you're reading, we are ready for a full-time partnership lol.I have read a few graphic novels over the years. Like a lot of people I jumped on the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World train and borrowed all six volumes after seeing the movie by Edgar Wright. From there my only other experience with a graphic novel is My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf which doubles as a memoir. My Friend Dahmer is about Backderf's high school friendship with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. It was well illustrated and well told. But again, it was my first real experience reading a story in this format.Essentially what I'm trying to say is that I have SOME experience reading graphic novels, but don't devote my bookshelf to them. So I'll be reviewing The Case of the Missing Men with this limited amount of knowledge about what makes a strong graphic novel, or how it would compare to others.The Case of the Missing Men is written by Kris Bertin and illustrated by Alexander Forbes. My friend Kurtis sent me this book to review, and I was excited by the opportunity because I love to check out projects by people from the Maritimes (Bertin grew up in Lincoln, New Brunswick, but is now based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.)So I was offered the book by Kurtis, intrigued by the local-ish connection, but really sold by the first line on the back summary: "Nancy Drew meets David Lynch in this mystery thriller set in a remote and eerie east-coast village." My boyfriend has been watching the return of Twin Peaks and I've also been binging a lot of Riverdale so it felt like the perfect time to give it a go.The Case of the Missing Men is set in a small town in Nova Scotia and focuses on a group of high school students whose extracurricular is their detective club. A newcomer named Sam shows up and the club decides to work with him to find his missing father. Other men have gone missing in Hobtown, but things start to escalate quickly when the lunch lady is murdered.From here things get weird.. the perpetrators are dead-eyed and zombie-like, but also act a lot like dogs. I am not going to go too much into plot because this is a mystery comic. The book's spine actually has a "1" on it indicating that there will be more Hobtown Mystery Stories to come.The illustrations of these men are super creepy, and it was interesting to read something where you don't rely on written physical descriptions. This is one of the things I enjoyed most about the book. My favourite scene was when the detective club was working together but their group was shown through a set of binoculars, indicating that they were being watched by someone unknown:This is what's cool about graphic novels. A lot of the time you get your feeling mystery from the illustration. Bertin doesn't have to write anything during this scene to set an air of unease because Forbes' illustration already sets the tone.This is a fairly serious mystery in that you feel like there are real consequences for the characters... unlike Nancy Drew you don't know if they are going to make it out in one piece. But Bertin never takes it too seriously. There is plenty of opportunity for comic relief and this is usually done through two high school jocks who are part of the club.All-in-all, you don't need to have a huge collection of graphic novels in order to be interested in The Case of the Missing Men. It's easy enough to follow along and the illustrations are really lovely. If you are interested in supporting local writers and illustrators, give it a go!VALENTINES DAY SPECIAL: 10 of Our Favourite Literary Couples Last valentines day we posted a bunch of books to help you get over a breakup and we decided this year to be less cynical and a little less bitter. Neither of us are mushy people but we're big suckers for any book with a complex relationship. Here are our favourite ten 'literary' couples. Comment your favourite below!!This is definitely my favourite fictional romance from any of the books I've read. I love it because they are written in such a classic Joan Didion way ... so subtle that you'd almost not notice it. Elena is working on "one last job" for her father to get him out of trouble. Treat is the official working on her case. There aren't any love scenes and there aren't any declarations of love. It's not until the end that Didion writes:'I read you too,' she said. Of course she did, of course he did. Of course they read each other. Of course they knew each other, understood each other, recognized each other, took one look and got each other, had to be with each other, saw the color drain out of what they saw when they were not looking at each other. They were the same person. They were equally remote."God I am not a sap, but that is easily the most romantic passage I've ever read.If you've been following this blog at all you'll know I think this is the most devastating love story that has ever been written. Almasy was a cartographer pre-World War II. He falls in love with his British business partner's wife Katherine Clifton and they begin an affair that lasts nearly ten years. She had grown older. And he loved her more now than he had loved her when he understood her better, when she was the product of her parents. What she was now was what she herself had decided to become."She eventually ends it because of her family but her husband finds out anyways. Her husband attempts to kill all three of them by crashing his plane into the desert. *Spoiler alert* The husband dies, Katherine is injured, and Almasy is fine. Almasy places Katherine in a cave and promises to go find help and come back for her. He walks four days across the desert only to be locked up as a spy. Don't we forgive everything of a lover? We forgive selfishness, desire, guile. As long as we are the motive for it."There is an amazing scene where he carries Katherine's dead body back across the desert. I sobbed like a baby reading this book, and the movie is just as good. Almasy and Katherine to me will always be the ultimate (although absolutely crippling) love story. One of the coolest fictional couples Meg and I got to see at TIFF this year. The book was beautifully written and the characters were certainly fleshed out, but what sold me on this couple were the beautiful shots of beaches and the wardrobes in the film adaptation. I feel like everyone romanticizes the ocean (a major motif in the book), and who can think of a better place to fall in love than a remote French hotel on the sea side? Freezing cold after long strolls on the beach and then getting cozy by the fire place? Alicia Vikander wears UGGS and glasses on a string in this ... she is also constantly wearing a rain coat and I wish people were attracted to me when I wear a rain coat... alas...I will admit there's a nostalgic element to this... Meghan and I both idealized Remy and Dex in our teens (something that really clinched our friendship). Remy was this cool, no-attachments, doesn't-believe-in-love character (someone Meghan and I love to think we identify with but couldn't be further from) and Dex was this corny musician, Seth Cohen type of character. Dex pursues Remy throughout the book and Remy pushes him away and *spoiler* they end up together, duh. I think about this couple a lot for absolutely no reason and this list seemed incomplete without them. I was going to include a quote but they were all very cheesy. I imagine I'd cringe reading this now, remembering how 16-year old me loved it so much. I think this is my most realistic choice. There isn't any romance and it certainly isn't ideal, but it is definitely the most real. Their relationship starts with Patty pursuing Walter's best friend Richard - a deadbeat, uncaring musician - and then crawling back to him after things don't go as planned. Her plea for Walter crushes my heart every time I read it:'He wasn't nice to me,' she said through tears. 'And you're the opposite of that. And I so, so, so need the opposite of that right now. Can you please be nice?' 'I can be nice,' he said, stroking her head. 'I swear you won't be sorry.' These were exactly her words, in the autobiographer's sorry recollection."After this encounter Patty and Walter eventually get married and have children. Then Patty starts having an affair with old, shit-bag Richard again. Anyways, this book is a great story about the struggles of marriage and forgiveness. As my friend Stefan said, the relationships are so real in the book it is actually painful to read at times.This is easily one of my favourite fiction novels. I have to have read it nearly twenty times. The book is about two best friends who spend their summers on Martha's Vineyard (a location I romanticize) and fall in love with two guys named Von and Bru. I always loved Victoria (Vix). She was quieter, excited when a popular girl showed an interest in her, and really values friends, family, and a shared history. She never knows what she wants and it takes a toll on her relationships with both Caitlin and Bru. Vix and Bru had one of those complicated relationships that stops, starts and kind of evolves overtime. My favourite thing about them is that despite really loving each other, and all the history they shared, they don't end up together. These are the kind of relationships I love and need to be reading about. I guess this is a cynical choice for me seeing as neither are really happy together nor do we assume that they stay together, BUT there is also some reality to their relationship that I respect / crushes me. They sort of acknowledge together that they weren't each other's first choice, and even that the love of their lives is someone they know but can't be with:She was scrabbling in the drawer for the corkscrew, and then she turned and regarded me bleakly. 'Listen,' she said. 'I don't expect you to understand but it's rough to be in love with the wrong person.'This is so simply put, and I understand out of context it may not be as jarring, but this passage really stuck with me. I have always been really obsessed with narratives where someone can't seem to pull themselves away from a significant other who is CLEARLY completely wrong for them on all levels, and who treats them so poorly. It was the only redeeming story line in Martin Scorsese's Casino. There's something honest and heartbreaking about it.Anyways, this certainly isn't a happy couple, but it is one I think about A LOT.I LOVE this marriage. It is definitely not something that should be idealized but it's so entertaining. Lady Macbeth is definitely in charge of their marriage and knows their enemy Duncan needs to be killed for her family to maintain their power. Because she's a woman, she can't kill him herself, so she spends most of the book manipulating her husband into doing it. She questions his manhood to a point where he NEEDS to kill Duncan just to prove himself to his wife. If we can forget the part where after she's so guilt ridden she goes mad... Lady Macbeth is a massively underrated feminist icon. I know Shakespeare is sometimes difficult and overwhelming to read, but if you can get past the iambic pentameter she throws some amazing insults her husband's way. One of my favourites is her calling him "infirm of purpose". Like imagine saying that to your HUSBAND? I love her.I mean are you even surprised? I know that we were technically talking about fictional characters, but Didion and Dunne have inserted their personal lives into every single thing they have ever written. That's why I love them as both writers and as a couple.I could easily write a 3000 word essay on my deep respect and obsession with this couple but I'll try to keep it brief. Didion and Dunne are extensions of each other, they were CONSTANTLY together. They would write in separate rooms but would always be calling out to each other to read something over, give advice, or think through an idea. They would also carry notebooks everywhere and would often write the same observations down. They agreed that whoever used the material first had the rights to it.I am envious of this relationship because I crave that closeness. I don't want my relationship to be my life, but still, I have always been drawn to that kind of openness and dependency.They also had A LOT of problems ... and it wasn't until I read Tracy Daughtery's biography of Didion that I was able to finally stop idealizing them to the extreme.Sigh. Popular, bad boy Landon falls in love with religious, nerdy, outcast Jamie who is also *spoiler* dying of cancer. Outside of Sarah Dessen, Jamie and Landon were my first novel romance and I still can't get over them. This book inspired losers everywhere to think they could land the most popular guy in school by just cutting their bangs and being super sweet because it was sooooo unrealistic but that's the best part about it. Landon tattooing her shoulder? Landon having his mother teach him how to dance? Landon building her that telescope and driving to ask his estranged father for money for her treatments in the middle of the night with Switchfoot playing? Yes please. Yes to all of it. Every girl wanted a Landon. Meghan and I watched the film adaptation on DVD before I had internet set up at one of my old apartments and towards the end I said "man it's really cold in here" and she goes "same I just got a chill"... then we both realized we were just getting a shiver from the cheesy speech Shane West delivers at the very end. I feel he was robbed of an Academy Award for this performance. Where Night Stops by Douglas Light So this book was sent to us by Rare Bird Books and to be honest, this review is nearly a complete waste because I barely understood any aspects of the plot. I feel poorly because I'm clearly just too simple to understand a piece of work an author has spent a ton of time and effort on. I do still think this book was incredibly well written (Light has a clear way with syntax) and I miraculously still found it entertaining despite not understanding what was going on. Here is my best, likely insulting, summary of the plot... The main character is fresh out of high school when his parents die in a car crash. He runs away, becomes homeless for a while, and gets involved in some sort of criminal 'ring'. I say 'ring' because he is consistently doing 'pickups' and 'drop offs' of flash drives and money and such, but it's never explicitly said what's going on here (or it is and I didn't get it- it took me until I was twenty-five years old to realize everyone around me had been doing cocaine for years without me knowing, so there is a very large chance what was happening in this book was obvious and like I said, I missed it). Anyways, he continues doing these pickups and drop offs for most of the book. At a few points he even needs to kill a few people (although it seems by accident). He spends a lot of time thinking about his parents and there is a section where he is involved with a girl named Sarah, which I really enjoyed. At the end, things somehow come full circle and the person who leads the 'ring' has also known him in his previous life? Or something? The ending SEEMED like it would have been very cool and Inception-esque, but again, I didn't get it.Douglas LightI enjoyed reading the parts where he pursued a relationship with Sarah quite a bit because I felt like I could relate to her. She spends all this time and effort trying to settle the main character, ground him, have him confide in her and let her in to his secret world but he never can. He lies to her, abandons her for weeks at a time on jobs, etc. This is super stressful for me having been in a similar-ish relationship where I never really knew what was actually going on with the guy. I felt for Sarah, it's so tiring and frustrating.I could get used to the normal life, I kept telling myself. Get a dull job at a movie theater or some magazine, have dinner parties with people I didn't particularly like, shop at Ikea, even endure holiday visits to Sarah's folks. I'd murdered men. There was no way domesticity was more difficult."One thing I didn't like about the main character is he actively makes all these terrible choices (trying to burn down his dead parents' house for the insurance money, getting involved with a sketchy guy at his homeless shelter, continuing to do these illegal jobs, murdering people, etc.) but he continues to blame his unfortunate circumstances and never himself. It gets so annoying to even listen to and I'm not sure he ever learns any differently by the end.'I'm not a bad person', I told myself, 'it's just that my life is bad.'I knew firsthand that, unstaunched, those bad breaks escalate. The world tastes blood. You become a continuous victim, and contrary to what all religions and governments and nonprofit organizations claim, mankind loves a victim, a loser, someone downtrodden- it loves someone to pick on."What a quote. I will be saying "the world tastes blood" for the rest of my life.I will say despite all this, I did pity his character throughout. He lost his parents right when he should have been going to college and becoming an adult. He ends up super lost in the world, takes a bad road, and then I can imagine it would be super hard to pull yourself off that road. He compares his job to an abusive relationship, hoping each time he goes to a 'job' that it's somehow more civilized:One thing- one of the many things- I learned reading the women's magazines was that breaking free of an abusive relationship was tough. Nearly impossible. We can't do the hard work needed because we can't get past our own lies. We keep telling ourselves 'this time will be different.' It's not. It'll never be."So, as my final review, I didn't understand this plot at all, but I still found the book entertaining enough to finish. I would be willing to read more books by Douglas Light and hope that the storyline is just easier to follow because I do like his writing style. I can't exactly recommend this book to anyone... because I don't know who would like it... because I don't know what it's about... BUT Where Night Stops is available to buy on February 13th. Don't let my simple mind stop you from trying it out if this sounds up your alley.You Are Among Monsters by Jon R. Flieger  I'm going to be painfully honest here when I say that I assumed I wouldn't enjoy this book. I have this horrible bias where I often think something that hasn't "made it" to the big-league's yet can't possibly be good. So this should serve as an even greater compliment to how much I enjoyed reading Jon R. Flieger's novel You Are Among Monsters. It crushed my expectations, and I will read any book he writes.Flieger lives in Windsor, Ontario, and reached out about reviewing his book after seeing Meg's review of Dave Heubert's book Peninsula Sinking. Flieger works with our good friends at Biblioasis and they sent me his book. This book is 189 pages of existential dread. It also focuses on a less-than-happy, long-term couple living in some small town in Alberta. Safe to say, I loved the subject matter.You Are Among Monsters follows Ian and Becky, a young couple who are fighting the frustration and boredom of being together well out of university. This book was so good because these petty, passive-aggressive arguments are so real. I've been in relationships where I felt like my partner's INFURIATING lack of emotion was driving me insane - or at least drove me to be unnecessarily argumentative. I sadly related to Becky ... and I'll say it was pretty hard to read about a character who is so unlikable and then recognize your own similar behaviour in relationships.The spiral is not a hopeful shape. We say we spiral out of control. We say we spiral into disasters. We prefer arcs. A life plotted and executed. Rise. Peak. Decline. A death. We want to live in parabola rise crest fall like a wave. Water imagery and our love of narrative. But not true parabola. A happy ending. Any ending. Because even a bad ending is easy to tell. Here is what happened. Here is what went wrong."Ian is training as a funeral home director, and it is this position that drags Becky with him to a small town in Alberta. She is currently unemployed and is desperately reapplying to graduate schools. This dynamic alone contributes to a lot of the hostility between the two.While reading you learn a lot about what it would probably be like to work in the funeral business. There is a particularly graphic description of what it's like to have to pick up a body when the deceased died by suicide:When a suicide is brought in the government coroner has to examine it before we can prep the body. When it's a hanging, the transfer agents or the cops or whoever collects the body is required to leave the ligature around the neck until the coroner examines is. That means the rope or the bed sheets or the sturdy old-fashioned orange extension cord is still on the body when we start work. Once when I was gurneying a transfer past the parents, the cord slipped out from under the sheet. Swinging. And the father groaned deep in his chest with a noise that I still remember and sometimes think I hear."Ian and Becky grow more distant as the book goes on. Becky becomes obsessed with applying to do her PhD at a school that has previously declined her admittance three times. She starts stealing books from the university library and starts work on an application topic that is questionably factual-based. She also starts getting hammered alone.Meanwhile Ian starts hanging out with a high school girl whose mother was murdered and whose body Ian picked up on his first day at work. This girl made me uneasy the entire time... you don't know what her intentions are and why she wants to keep meeting with Ian. It doesn't help that she describes her world view in such pessimistic terms:Everyone is young until they're not. But the world runs on malice. And I want to learn how to make use of mine." Like all idiot men, Ian is attracted to this girl even though he knows she is like 10 years younger than him. He notes the irony of meeting with her for the first time and her reading Lolita. There are a ton of lines in this book that really struck me. The entire time I was reading this book I was so impressed with Flieger, and I am so happy to be able to add another Canadian author to my bookshelf.Telling horror stories is one way to avoid telling true stories, maybe."Anyways, I'm definitely changing my tune about up-and-coming authors. And you all should too.Unqualified by Anna Faris I knew that this book was coming out for a long time and I had zero interest in reading it until I learned that Faris and husband Chris Pratt were getting a divorce. I hate to even write the sentence that her divorce likely helped the book sales, but I'm sure it did. Pratt wrote the foreword to this book, but it was released in stores after their divorce was announced. I was desperate to see how they wrote about each other in the months leading up to their public announcement. I am also obsessed with celebrities so nobody really had to twist my arm, ya know?This is another one of those celebrity memoirs I love to blow through on a lazy day somewhere. My boyfriend bought me it for Christmas and I read it in a few hours before we were even into the new year. Faris covers a lot of topics including parenting, becoming an actress, and her podcast (called Anna Faris is Unqualified), but mostly the book centers around relationships and what she's learned so far about herself and men. I enjoyed it, it was cute and entertaining.While it's clear Faris wrote the book pre-divorce, the foreword by Pratt was not the soul-crushing pre-divorce love letter I expected it to be and I'd guess he wrote it post-divorce. He was likely contractually still bound to the project, although he still has only nice things to say about her. I liked this book a lot because I agreed with a lot of Faris' relationship advice. I don't agree with a lot of the mainstream advice like 'don't go to bed mad'... my boyfriend and I literally need to go to sleep if we're fighting so it can be over the next day. It can be 1pm and if we're in a fight I'm all "okayyy bedtime... let's wake up tomorrow nicer to each other". Faris, on the other hand, seems really smart and practical about how she approaches things... for example:I've heard the suggestion that I don't need a tight group of girlfriends anyway, because Chris should be my best friend. But I've never bought that. The idea that your mate must be your best friend feels to me like an overused mantra that puts unnecessary pressure on your relationship."She also carries on about weddings in the exact same vein as I do... I love weddings don't get me wrong, but all of the shenanigans associated with them are a bit uncomfortable for me. Especially elaborate engagements. I laughed out loud at this passage:I don't know where along the way we became a culture that mandates ' you must conceive of some crazy trickery that will later be deemed romantic'. It's fun for the surpriser, but not the surprisee. And then there's some poor woman who's like, "Holy shit, should I be doing this? Well, I can't say no now that he's created a scavenger hunt leading me to a ring on a chain around my dog's neck, who then barked three times and my whole family - in from out of town! - jumped out from behind the couch to start the celebrations before I've even answered... so Okay! Yes! I do!"Then there's this amazing tidbit:Both Ben and Chris asked my father if it was okay to propose to me, and in both cases my dad said that while of course he thought it was very considerate of them to ask, it was 'unnecessary because it is completely my daughter's  choice.'I'm obsessed with my dad. Obviously I want him to feel respected and considered, but he also raised me to be a whole person who makes good decisions and knows what's best for me... so I also think the whole 'ask the dad' thing is maybe unnecessary. I really think parents just maintain this tradition because they want the scoop first, to be in on the little secret. I'm also 100% confident I'd never marry someone my dad didn't respect anyways. I don't know that I'd consider this book funny, but I've also never been a huge fan of Faris' comedic style anyways. I forget a lot of the stuff she's in, and without being insensitive to her well-deserved career as an actress, she tends to play someone a bit dumb and slutty in everything I can remember (House Bunny, What's Your Number?, Scary Movie, etc.)... and I prefer more of a Kristin Wig type role to this type in my preferred comedies... but everyone has their own preferences.One of the things I forgot she was in was Friends! How could we forget, one of Joey's jillion sisters. Faris wrote this about her time on set with Friends and I think this is one of the funniest scenarios I can imagine because DO YOU join a group hug with the cast of Friends???During one run-through [on her guest appearance on Friends], Jennifer Aniston suggested a group hug, and I was standing nearby so I started to take a step forward, but then I took a step back, I just didn't know where to go."One of my closest friends Marijke has a funny story like this from her first date with her now-husband where they went to the movies and he went to a machine to buy a ticket and she wasn't sure if she was meant to go to another machine and buy her own or not... this is so funny to me because I also would be paralyzed over what to do... anyways hopefully Marijke is fine that this is now on the internet.Lastly, while I did not get the sapfest from Chris Pratt in the foreword that I wanted (because I think he wrote it post-split), I DID get it from Faris herself (who I think wrote the whole book pre-split). There are so many great passages about her relationship with Pratt, how they started dating (she was already married when they met), Pratt as a father, etc. Starting with the dedication...To Chris. Your wisdom and strength have made me a better person."Had I not wanted to read this already, this would have sold me. I also loved this quote because it seems like such a Chris Pratt thing to say (not that I know him at all or the things he'd usually say):It was kind of Chris to not make me feel guilty that we lived in my old house. It was similar to when I asked him if he was bothered by the fact that I was married before and he said, unsurprisingly, the perfect thing. 'Baby, you were just chilling on ice.'And lastly, this passage at the very end of the book. This is the stuff I read books for people:Chris, thank you for an impossible amount of support and love. Thank you for the flowers. Thank you for finding my credit card at the Kmart in Pheonix. Thank you for the deer jerky. Thank you for laughing at my dumb jokes. Thank you for cutting Jack's hair. But that might have to stop. Thank you for being just about the best person I know. I love you. I wish we had more words for love."Ugh. I could cry over their divorce every time I read this.If you like celebrity memoirs / Faris herself or are looking for a book with some tried and true relationship advice, I think you'd love this. I wish it could have made it onto the list we did last year on books to help get over a breakup, because it's perfect for that. Was it the funniest or most insightful book I've ever read? No. But I did really enjoy it and I think a lot of females would. I also definitely see Faris in a different (less dumb, less slutty) light after reading this as well...Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer This was my favourite book of 2017. I've spent this year reading a lot of non-fiction and it was so nice to pick up a heavy, long-ass piece of fiction again. I should note here that "long-ass fiction" is an actual genre for me ... There is no way I could properly define it, but what I'm trying to say is that I love a massive book that leaves you trapped in the world that author created (whether it be a fixation with a character or even just how the story is narrated). Because I can't describe what I mean I'll leave you with a few examples of long-ass fiction: The Goldfinch by Donna Tart, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (or anything by Franzen really), and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.Anyways, Here I Am is in this same vein. It is a ~600-page family dramedy that serves as Jonathan Safran Foer's newest, and most mature, book. I say most mature only because he doesn't rely on any weird narrative structures or typography tricks the way he does in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Anyways, again, this is Foer's first book in TEN YEARS.Here I Am starts off with the second most jarring line I've ever read in a book's first chapter: When the destruction of Israel commenced, Isaac Bloch was weighing whether to kill himself or move to the Jewish Home." **I need to note that the BEST first line I've ever read was Margaret Atwood's opener in The Blind Assassin: "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge. **Foer's opening line kicks off half of Here I Am's plotline: a cataclysmic earthquake that destroys Israel. The other half of the plotline deals with the destruction of Jacob and Julia Bloch's marriage. Nothing goes away. Not on its own. You deal with it, or it deals with you."Jonathan Safran FoerThe book bounces between the perspective of Jacob and Julia, as well as their oldest son, Sam. Jacob and Julia suffer from the same martial problems we all will... they are sexually bored and frustrated with each other's parenting. The main conflict occurs when Julia finds an unknown phone in their bathroom with some GRAPHIC sexts. She confronts Jacob and he admits to it, though nothing physical ever happened between him and this woman.From here everything happens in a way that feels too realistic ... there's nothing overdramatic, and the parents both work hard to make it an easy transition for the kids.Sitting with her now, rehearsing the horrible conversation, Jacob wondered if maybe, all those years, he misunderstood the spaces surrounding Julia: her quiet, her steps back. Maybe they weren't buffers of defense, but of the most extreme humility, the purest generosity. What if she wasn't withdrawing, but beckoning? Or both at the same time? Withdrawing and beckoning? And more to the point: making a world for their children, even for Jacob."One narrative trick Foer uses is the whole "what was said" vs. "what was thought" comparison, and I will say it did work really well in this context. There are a lot of scenes where he will attribute something Julia said out loud, but then will follow it up with "what she really thought was..." This never passes into overuse or being too cheesy.There is also a ton of beautiful / soul crushing discussions about marriage and child rearing which I obviously loved. There are two quotations from this book that will be seared in my memory for actual eternity. The first is just so simple and short that I want to sob my eyes out right now. Julia asks Jacob this question in the first half of the book and Foer constantly returns to it:Does it make you sad that we love the kids more than we love each other?"Oh god I'm in agony just typing it. This is honestly something that I struggle with so much and what TERRIFIES me about having children. I don't ever want to love someone more than I love my own partner. And I know it's a different kind of love, but still, I don't want it.My other favourite passage is from Jacob's mother. She delivers this in a speech at their wedding:'In sickness and in sickness,' Jacob's mother had said at his wedding. 'That is what I wish for you. Don't seek or expect miracles. There are no miracles. Not anymore. And there are no cures for the hurt that hurts most. There is only the medicine of believing each other's pain, and being present for it.'Goddamn that's good. Please, someone invite me to speak at their wedding...There is also a great moment when Jacob just screams at Julia after being confronted about the texts, "YOU ARE MY ENEMY."I know this may seem weird out of context of the fight, but it's one of those things that if someone genuinely screamed this at me I would be devastated... He literally spits it out. It's one of those things you can never take back, and it would honestly burn into my memory for the rest of my life.There is also a lot of comedy in the book. One of my favourite scenes is when Jacob, his father, his cousin and his youngest son are at the airport. Jacob goes to the bathroom and finds himself peeing next to Steven Spielberg. He immediately looks at Spielberg's dick. This alone is so funny because OF COURSE you would look. It's fucking Steven Spielberg. But Foer goes on! The punchline is that Jacob is convinced he is looking at an uncircumcised penis. He runs out to tell his father (I should mention that the Bloch family are Jewish and identify as Jewish) and his dad starts to have a meltdown. He is DEVASTATED that Spielberg is uncircumcised.Safran Foer and his ex-wife, author Nicole KraussAs for the stuff about having children... Jacob and Julia have three sons with the oldest being in high school. Foer has a son with ex-wife (and author) Nicole Krauss. I was actually so sad to read of their divorce because they seemed like such a perfect pair. I loved reading Eating Animals because you get to see how they've tried to raise their son. He writes this passage about one of the youngest sons in the book asking their father for privacy:'Could we have a little privacy?' Max asked. The absurdity of it, the agony and beauty of it, almost brought Jacob to his knees: these two independent consciousnesses, neither of which existed ten and a half years ago, and existed only because of him, could now not only operate free of him (that much he'd known for a long time), but demand freedom."I imagine this is how literally all parents feel as their children grow up. It's always funny to see a toddler say something so adult-like and demanding, and parents have a million of these stories. But I imagine that even though they laugh, their heart breaks a tiny bit inside. Another reason not to procreate.This is a very long review and honestly it's because I LOVE this book SO SO SO much. Again it was easily my favourite book I've read all year. Don't be an idiot, pick up some long-ass fiction.Disobedience by Naomi Alderman I was drawn to this book for no logical reason (as I am to most things). Mostly, I just loved the title. What a powerful one word. Also Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz are starring in the upcoming adaptation so you know that's going to be good. I bought it as soon as I saw the movie on the TIFF film schedule and realized it was based on a book.The book is about Orthodox Jewish lesbians named Esti and Ronit. They grew up together and Ronit's dad was the head rabbi of the entire Jewish community. The community is extremely strict about their religion, homosexuality is definitely frowned upon, and years before Disobedience begins Ronit leaves this community to go to school in New York and never returns. Leaving the community is a big deal for a rabbi's daughter. When Disobedience begins, Ronit's father has passed away and she returns back to the community for her father's funeral. She learns her ex-lover Esti has married her cousin Dovid, who is set to replace her father as the head rabbi.AldermanWhile Esti and Ronit's complicated relationship is a major theme of the book, the story is actually about Ronit's complicated relationship with her religion (her father, the community, and Esti all just being minor pieces of that). I did not have a religious upbringing. My dad's family Jewish, but we only sometimes practiced that. We grew up with the type of Judaism where we SOMETIMES got together to eat potato latkas and light candles, NOTHING like the Judaism Alderman describes in Disobedience.  I do know a handful of strictly religious people, and I never really understood it. It seemed like one big diet that you had to abide by always. But I have always been jealous of the tight communities religion provides for you, sort of like sports, both of which I was never a part of. This quote, from Ronit when she decides to stay in New York rather than return to her Jewish community after school, sort of speaks to the way I've always pictured strict religions:I remember the feeling of putting down the deposit on that cramped little bedroom and moving my things in. It was a great, glorious open feeling, like I'd just unsealed my lungs for the first time and realized that there was air to breathe. You can only save yourself, says Dr. Feingold, but at least you can do that."Reading Disobedience has been very insightful for me. Ronit loves her religion but she doesn't want to be restricted by it, how can she marry these two ideas? The people of her community don't believe it's possible. This is a topic/inner conflict I could read about all day. The following quote really speak to this inner conflict Ronit faces:'Sometimes I think that God is punishing me. For what we did together. Sometimes I think that my life is a punishment for wanting. And the wanting is a punishment, too. But I think- if God wishes to punish me, so be it; that is His right. But it is my right to disobey.'I think it's very cool to hear religion positioned this way. The entire book is from Ronit's perspective so there are a lot of really thought provoking passages. Alderman herself grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community similar to the one described in Disobedience, so I did some research to determine if this novel had any autobiographical elements, and whether she was using Ronit as a voice for herself. I didn't find a conclusive answer to that question, but I did find a great quote from an interview she did with The Guardian in 2016:I went into the novel religious and by the end I wasn't. I wrote myself out of it."So maybe Disobedience was a bit of an unexpected cathartic experience for Alderman at the very least.Rachel McAdams (left) and Rachel Weisz (right) in the upcoming film adaptationReligion aside, Alderman dives into topics that I go back to all the time, ambivalence, relationships, and how these themes can be amplified by the presence of religion. I've talked on this blog 1000 times about my inability to make choices, and I don't have the fear of God to deal with on top of my own anxiety. I loved this passage where Ronit describes the complexities of making choices about your own life (applicable in religious and non-religious contexts):We hang suspended between two certainties: the clarity of the angels and the desires of the beasts. Thus, we remain forever uncertain. Our lives present us with choices, further choices and more choices, each multiplying, our ability to find our way forever in doubt. Unhappy creatures! Luckiest of all beings! Our triumph is our downfall, our opportunity for condemnation is also our chance for greatness. And all we have, in the end, are the choices we make."She also touched on the complexities of marriage, another topic I am obsessed with. Esti is married to Ronit's cousin Dovid, but still in love with Ronit. Esti really only married Dovid because Ronit went to New York and was, to her knowledge, never coming back. She isn't unhappy with Dovid, but marrying him wasn't the answer to her heartbreak either despite her best efforts. Ronit observes their marriage with what I would call mild jealousy mixed with mild pity. It's also clear that Ronit doesn't really respect marriage as she's having a casual affair with a married man she works with in New York.Those who believe that marriage is an end in itself, that it is a guarantee of contentment, are fools. Marriage is difficult. It is painful. And it was meant to be so... And although marriage may, in slow and unexpected ways, bring us much joy and satisfaction, nothing of the sort has been promised."Esti, naive as she is written, believes Ronit's return means they can be together again. Ronit, much smarter and less jaded, knows this isn't going to happen. It's never clear whether it's because of their religion, because of Esti's marriage, or because Ronit has simply moved on. I did love this quote though:It is a terrible, wretched thing to love someone whom you know cannot love you. There are things that are more dreadful. There are many human pains more grievous. And yet it remains both terrible and wretched. Like so many things, it is insoluble."I thought this book was really well-written but also super anti-climatic. I enjoyed reading it but I can easily see how other people could call it boring. I can't think of a single person in my life I'd recommend it to, which is unfortunate because I liked it so much. I think the upcoming film adaptation will be amazing and I hope the writer who adapted the screenplay was true to Alderman's novel.Margaret Atwood (left) with Alderman (right)This book won the Orange Award for new writers, and I think it was well-deserved. The fact that this is Alderman's first novel is honestly baffling, and I do look forward to reading more of her work. It's clear she's very talented, Margaret frigging Atwood chose her as her protege as part of a mentorship program, and Barack Obama recently listed Alderman's The Power as one of his favourite reads of 2017.Best and Worst Reads of 2017 This is a hard list and we hardly ever agree. We're sorry to all the authors who made it on the 'worst' list but maybe just write books we like more? If any of the authors are reading this, which of course they aren't. Anyways, these are in no particular order.God I love reading a massive, beautiful piece of fiction. Here I Am is easily Jonathan Safran Foer's most mature book. Not only is it not from the perspective of a child, but it also doesn't use the "narrative tricks" he has been known for. Everyone already knows that I love a story about a crumbling marriage, so I was already sold from the start.. but Foer really pushes it beyond just that. There are so many small, heartbreaking situations we can all recognize throughout it. It also has one of my favourite endings. Look for an author spotlight from me on Foer this year!This, surprisingly even to me, was one of my favourite books I read all year... and I read it in January (full review here)! The plot to this fiction novel has stuck with me this entire year as I've navigated my own relationships. It's an amazing story about best friends and couples on Nantucket Island, women who don't ask for the things they want and need, romantic relationships that get dragged through the mud... all my favourite things. I love Elin Hilderbrand novels in general but this one has stuck out to me from her whole repertoire, and even above anything else I've read this year. It's a perfect chick-lit fiction novel.I mean, obviously this is on my list. Joan Didion is the ruler of my world and my favourite writer to ever live and breath. I am crippled with anxiety from her approaching death. I found out last Christmas that this book was to be published and I pre-ordered it immediately. I read it in February of 2017, so it made a lasting impression for the rest of the year. This isn't something she wrote presently, it's an accumulation of her notes from a trip she took across the southern states decades ago. So while it isn't exactly something new, it is definitely still required reading. Just read Joan Didion... Honestly who cares where you start, just do it. My full review can be found here!I think if you read my review of this Canadian short story collection, you'll already know I'm absolutely obsessed with it. A friend of ours is actually the author but that has absolutely nothing to do with me carrying on about it like it's the best thing ever, it IS the best thing ever. Huebert has this amazing knack for capturing incredibly human moments that you didn't even know could ever be written down but then there they are on the page in front of you. It also helps that he pads all of his short stories with factual passages related to the topic in the story, and I love to read pure facts. I've already gone back and re-read some of my favourite stories ("Enigma" and "How Your Life"), it's definitely one of the best books I've read this year.This was a very pleasant surprise for 2017. Our brilliant friend Emily got us a copy of her colleague Adrian Owen's book Into the Gray Zone. It's about his research and work communicating with patients who are believed to be in a state of "unconsciousness." Not only is this book incredibly informative (and also easy to read for people who are not phd-level geniuses) but it is also highly personal. I would recommend this book to literally anyone. My full review can be found here!We read this book for book club this year and I have to say, it was brutal. I thought it would be fun (the topic is women who organize a town-wide sex strike, sounds fun right??), but it was because of MAGIC which, kill me, is my least favourite topic. Had I known magic was at all a factor I would have vetoed it immediately. The best part is that it was very short and easy to blast through, the downside is that I had to waste time reading a hybrid of young adult fiction and sci-fi, the two worst genres.I love any film by Alex Garland so I was really excited to read this book when I found out he was adapting it for 2018. Unfortunately I was pretty disappointed with the source material and I hope Garland can make something new out of it. There were all sorts of different themes I wanted Jeff Vandermeer to dig into and he just barely scratched the surface. I wouldn't suggest starting off with Annihilation for your first attempt at science fiction. But, decide for yourself.. read my full review here.Not only was this book garbage, but the movie was brutal also. I thought it would be an amazing adventure fiction book, two people fighting for their lives in the wild... and it was... except magically these characters had all sorts of snow gear and energy. This book's biggest downfall was how unrealistic it was. The love story throughout also felt unnatural... I just overall wouldn't recommend this and I especially wouldn't recommend wasting 2 hours of your life watching the film. My expanded rant can be found here.How sad that there are two picks for book club on this list? Whomp-whomp. I didn't HATE this book, and I definitely feel a ton of anxiety picking out books for this list because it is so difficult.. but I also far from loved Helter Skelter. For one, it was just way too long and way too dense. I really enjoyed the book club aspect, like getting to read Kenan or Emily's summaries and discussing what was going on in real life (i.e. MANSON DYING). But this is a book I would have a lot of trouble sticking with if I was reading it totally alone.I wouldn't say this book was especially bad, but I didn't love it and I barely even remembered it until I scrolled through my Instagram figuring out what was going to make this list... This was a book sent to us by a publishing company, it's a murder mystery, and it was FINE... but it wasn't great. The relationships were cheesy and overdone and the revenge plot is something we've read about 1000 times... If you care to read more about what I liked and didn't like my review is here.Books We Got For Christmas 2017 We have always been spoiled brats, so why should that change just because we are in our mid-twenties?? These are all the books we got for Christmas this year!I still haven't watched the Angelina Jolie Netflix adaptation of this memoir yet, but it has already been nominated for best foreign film at the Golden Globes. After talking to my friend Andre at a party I decided I needed to read Ung's book first. I am looking forward to learning about Cambodia and what they had to go through. I am also prepared to sob my eyes out. Thanks for the recommendation Andre!I love a long-ass, non-fiction title (the subtitle is "A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science doesn't Understand"). I also love memoirs about health issues. Rehmeyer's story is all about her trying to live with chronic fatigue syndrome, something doctors don't know a lot about. I can't wait to read all about this disease we have all claimed to suffer from. I wanted to wait for this to come out in paperback but I'm not sure if it is on track to. When I went searching for this at Indigo the guy working assumed I meant When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.. Sorry, but some of us are interested in a wider range of medical memoirs.I DID NOT KNOW THIS WAS A REAL BOOK. I actually found out at movie club when we were on our month of "films about films" and we watched Adaptation by Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze. I had watched this movie many times and loved the passages from what I thought was a fictional book.. At the meeting I said, "God I wish this was a real book," and everyone was like, "uuuh it is!" I may have to prioritize this to the top of my Christmas reading list.I am ready to become a full-fledged basketball fan by moving into my first ever athlete biography. I normally hate biographies as I prefer to read memoirs or autobiographies, but Lebron has yet to write one. I can't not read this book. The Cavaliers winning the 2016 NBA Finals (and the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead) was easily the best experience I have had in the last decade. I am so grateful for Lebron and will actually fight anyone who tells me they don't like him. Meg and I am also going to see him play in Toronto against the Raptors in January (THANKS HUMAN FOR THE ULTIMATE GIFT) and maybe I ask him to sign it????I mean ... I like to jump right into the deep end.. I have to read this biography... I am adamant that Lebron is the GOAT, but I am willing to read up on Jordan so that I can have a more informed decision. After reading one of the all-time best long reads my friend Eric Elliot sent me on Jordan I knew I would need to read something more in-depth about him. This is not the man we thought we knew from Space Jam...This was a gift from Ben. It makes me so happy because 1) he knows I am obsessed with Everest thanks to Katie and 2) he struggled to find a book I haven't read about Everest. I should note that my bookshelf is organized by author or theme ... so he spent quite a while looking through it to confirm I don't have this book. He also consulted his dad and his dad's friend about it. They said that anyone who is fascinated by Everest needs to read this book.I wanted this on Meg's recommendation, or I guess technically on the recommendation of Greta Gerwig. Meg sent me Greta's reaction to the book and I figured if she loved it that much I need to check it out.This was another book Ben bought me for Chistmas. I love any non-fiction title with a few adjectives thrown in (subtitle is "A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed"). I have honestly been looking at this book for a few years now, always thinking I should pick it up. So that's why it was such a nice surprise that Ben bought it for me. He had no idea I was intrigued by it, but I guess he has figured out my taste in books pretty quickly.This was 50% off on Black Friday at Indigo and I had just spent the week in southwest Nova Scotia for work talking about podcasts and audiobooks. A woman I met there named Trudy told me she just finished this audiobook. After telling me it's about a woman who was the first female diver during the war I decided to add it to my Christmas list. Egan also won the Putlizer for A Visit From the Goon Squad, so she must be a great writer. And last but not least, another memoir! I heard about this book from a long-form article about people who accidentally kill someone, and how they are very few resources for them to help cope. So for instance if a kid comes out of nowhere on their bike and you hit them with your car, you aren't a bad person, but people are uncomfortable with it. Anyways, I guess this is like the ONLY memoir about someone who has had to go through something like that. You can read the article here!You may have seen this book as one of my recommendations for books that would make good Christmas gifts, but to be honest, I knew this book was coming for a long time and really had no interest in reading it until her and Chris Pratt recently announced their divorce. I mean, Pratt wrote the foreward, who wouldn't want to read this type of celebrity outpour of love for an ex-wife??? Otherwise, I don't necessarily love Faris. As I write this, I've already finished it, so expect a review in the new year. It was, as you may have expected, a VERY easy read.Another suggestion from my recommendations for books that would make good Christmas gifts!! What can I say, my family reads my blog, how cute are we? Winter Street, Winter Stroll, Winter Storms and most recently published, Winter Solstice, are a series Hilderbrand has slowly been releasing. I think it's complete now and I'm totally ready for a good binge of one of my favourite fiction authors, how lucky was I to get all 4 books from my parents at once???My sister loves to gift me this type of book and luckily picked up on the not so subtle clue I wanted it in my review of Murder in Plain English earlier this year. This book is about two researchers who conduct a 3 year study and 200+ prison interviews with men serving life sentences for killing their female partners. HOW INTERESTING. I can't wait to read this book and bore everyone with facts for the next ~year until I become a self-proclaimed expert on something else.I'm admittedly late to the Kelly Oxford game but I've been following her twitter feed long enough now that I felt I would enjoy her books. Oxford is Canadian and became famous for her sarcastic and pointed twitter account... she's since done some film writing and such. I don't really have much more to say on this one...I just wrote about this new book in my author spotlight on Shreve. She's one of my favourite fiction author and this is her brand new novel that my aunt was kind enough to buy for me. It's about wildfires that take over a community and a group of husbands who join on as volunteer firefighters. My favourite plotline to anything is a wife who doesn't know the fate of her husband so I'm excited to read this.I have a rotton dog, that's all there is to this. My boyfriend got this for me as though OUR dog is MY problem, but thankfully, he's brought it on vacation with us to read for himself.So if you read this blog at all you likely know I already own, read, and loved this book. My full review is here. However, my boyfriend's mom definitely doesn't read this blog (which is honestly likely a good thing), saw an article on Huebert in our local paper and how he wrote this book. Knowing that I went to Western and suspecting I'd be interested in this, she went to the book store and picked it out all on her own, and included the newspaper article in it. How sweet is she???? She was also right on the money for this being something I'd love.Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer I love Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later) so when I saw the trailer for Annihilation and found out it was based on a book I decided to give it a go. I don't usually read such extreme science fiction, but he has always impressed me so much with his work that I thought I'd try it. Garland adapted the Kazuo Ishiguro book Never Let Me Go, so I had a lot of faith in him in regards to his relationship between a script and a novel. So I went out and bought Jeff VanderMeer's book - the first in his Southern Reach Trilogy. Annihilation focuses on a team of four women (a biologist, anthropologist, psychologist, and surveyor) on the twelfth expedition to Area X. How this bizarre location developed or why the government is so worried about it is never identified. All we know is that there have been previous expeditions and they have either ended in violence, suicide or cancer.We move through Area X from the perspective of the biologist (no one's real name is ever exposed). When the team gets there they discover a staircase going deep into the ground and decide to explore it. From here a bunch of weird shit starts happening ... It isn't a spoiler to say that only the biologist survives, as she says early on in the book:I would tell you the names of the other three, if it mattered, but only the surveyor would last more than the next day or two. Besides, we were always strongly discouraged from using names: We were meant to be focused on our purpose, and 'anything personal should be left behind.' Names belonged to where we had come from, not to who we were while embedded in Area X."Natalie Portman in the movie adaptation directed by Alex GarlandI'll start by saying I will probably never read the other two books of this trilogy. Garland has also said that he has no intention of working on a second or third film. The reason I won't keep reading is simply because I didn't really enjoy the first book. There were too many times that I felt a little lost and some of the topics I was interested in were ignored.One of the reasons I picked up this book was because I was so interested in the concept of an expedition lead by only women. There is some brief mention about how they have experimented with different combinations for expedition teams ... our main character's husband went on an all-male expedition for instance. I guess I was hoping for some sort of explanation ... like why they thought having all of the same sex would influence what they found in Area X or their experience of it ... but there is nothing about this at all.This was also acknowledged when the biologist talks about how her husband was on the 11th expedition and her reason for signing up after he died:A spouse of a former expedition member had never signed up before. I think they accepted me in part because they wanted to see if that connection might make a difference. I think they accepted me as an experiment. But then again, maybe from the start they expected me to sign up."This is the sort of stuff I love about science fiction books ... it gets you to ask why some of these scenarios exist, and what are the intentions behind them. Why would they want a team of all women or all men? What does the government believe having a spouse of a past-expedition leader accomplish? It makes you wonder more and more about the nature of Area X ... my issue here is always that I don't get any answers, just more questions.One thing I did really like was that VanderMeer does not use any of the stereotypes associated with women. No one on this team is a "nurturer," no one is overly emotional or compassionate: "Observation has always meant more to me than interaction." There is no camaraderie at all between this group of women.I do love sci-fi in that I wish I was a scientist ... a marine biologist, animal behaviouralist, or someone who could potentially work for the Department of Natural Resources. This is what drew me to the book. I love a team of female scientists exploring a dangerous, unnatural environment.How what we had seen below could coexist with the mundane was baffling. It was as if we had come up too fast from a deep-sea dive but it was the memories of the creatures we had seen that had given us the bends."a scene from Garland's upcoming adaptationThere is also talk early on about how their team originally had a fifth member, a linguist. Obviously I was super pumped about this as Meg and I both got our master's degree in linguistics. I love that our field of study is always mentioned in movies because that is exactly the kind of attention we would want ourselves. For instance, I remember watching the first Thor movie and one of the CIA guys was like "GET SOMEONE FROM LINGUISTICS DOWN HERE!" I mean there's also Arrival, based on a linguist who has to help decipher an alien language. God, maybe I'm as cool as I aways wanted to be.The book is super short (208 pages), but is eery the entire way through. VanderMeer is constantly alluding to the dangers this expedition will face. But there is also a sense of unease between the characters for other reasons: lack of trust, the history of past expeditions, and a sense that they haven't been given all of the information about Area X.I hope it's only about six feet deep so we can continue mapping," the surveyor said, trying to be lighthearted, but then she, and we, all recognized the term "six feet under" ghosting through her syntax and a silence settled over us."Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez in the film adaptation- in theatres February 2018Another topic I did really enjoy was the nature of curiosity. What we are willing to do to answer puzzling questions, to explore what's new, and to continue to push into the unknown.I feel like this quotation below summarizes why people flock to science fiction, and how these types of books often become best sellers. It is the same reason we are obsessed with true crime ... we'll never really know the truth, but we still grasp at answers. We HATE not knowing.You understand, I could no more have turned back than have gone back in time. My free will was compromised, if only by the severe temptation of the unknown. To have quit that place, to have returned to the surface, without rounding that corner ... my imagination would have tormented me forever. In that moment, I had convinced myself I would rather die knowing ... something, anything."This is a sentiment I can understand. While I am certainly a coward, I am also very curious, and having things left unanswered actually pains me.This book is short and is worth the read if you really love science fiction. Again, I do enjoy sci-fi books now and again, but I needed more from this one. I can't help but think Garland's movie adaptation is going to be much, much better than the book.Helter Skelter Book Club: THE FINAL WEEK MeaganGuys, we're done! I feel like this was a large accomplishment. Not as big as Moby Dick but only because that wasn't even enjoyable.I really liked how Bugliosi took things into 'present' day context at the end... where the Family is at now, how things have been proceeding, etc. I like to learn about the mass amounts of fan mail Manson recieves etc. It seems almost bittersweet that he's dead now right as we finish the book. I'd love to be following his Twitter feed or something (assuming he had one).I, myself, have no opinion on the death penalty so it's hard to say whether I felt relieved or disappointed when Manson and the girls got relieved of their sentences. For Manson, it almost seems like death would have been a privilege for him that he didn't deserve, but what do I know?I really liked Bugliosi's writing style and feel somewhat compelled to read his other work but I'm not sure if I'm that interested in the content. I felt surprised to learn he'd continued as an author rather than a lawyer, but I guess prosecuting Manson would be the high to go out on...It seems weird to me that we still care so much about this case, as there have been far worse serial killers since the Manson Family. I think it goes back to what Meg said in an earlier section about there being no particular rhyme or reason for this... which scares people more almost than something we can apply reason to. It's the cult aspect that makes it so famous I guess.Are we happy we read this or how do we feel? I'm glad I did, I really liked it and found it well-written and super interesting. I previously knew nothing about this group at all...MeghanAnother bookclub down! It was cool to try nonfiction for our third choice. I felt like because it was true crime we were all able to add a little more to our discussions because we can draw from the facts and knowledge we already knew going into the book. I will definitely say I learned A LOT about the case. I think a lot of people assume they know the whole story because it is such a well-known murder, but I was surprised by how much I had no idea about.And, like Meg said, it was really weird that Manson died while we were reading and finishing up book club.As for whether or not I fully enjoyed the book.... I would say I found it to be a little too dense for my liking. I'm glad I read it because I feel like I am now pretty well versed in the crimes and the court case, but I think this book only sold as well as it did because people are obsessed with Manson..I will say it was great to read from the perspective of the actual lawyer who prosecuted Manson instead of just an author who researched the story.So, what are everyone's final thoughts? And who is ready to pick another book for a 2018 club??What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas I asked for this book as a gift after reading Thomas' A Three Dog Life, which I absolutely loved. It was an amazing memoir about grief and aging and you can read my full review here. This book follows A Three Dog Life but some of the timeline precedes it. I didn't know when I first read her work that before the mentioned marriage in A Three Dog Life, Thomas had actually been married before and had three children. What Comes Next and How to Like It is about how her best friend Chuck falls in love with one of her daughters, and how their friendship survives and evolves past that relationship.'Why does forgiveness irritate me so much?' I ask Chuck. 'Because it's the ultimate act of passive aggression', he says."I will say that I didn't enjoy this one as much as A Three Dog Life but I'm not abandoning her work entirely. She still has other books I want to read. Where A Three Dog Life was written in normal novel format, What Comes Next is short, sometimes half a page or few-sentence 'thoughts' on a particular topic such as her painting, her daughter's cancer, her neighbour's dog, etc. I found this very charming and I really liked most of them, but it did make it difficult for me to invest in any type of story line because there really wasn't one. They do follow a loose sequential order so you understand how things are evolving, but it's still very disjointed.Thomas enjoying her own bookOne thing that makes her writing so appealing is that Thomas is simply a very relatable narrator. She drinks but wishes she could stop, smokes but wishes she could stop, worries but wishes she could stop, curses, naps in the morning, and doesn't brush her hair. She likes to binge watch television. This was one of my favourite passages, I feel this exact same way everyday:But when it gets dark, I’m off the hook. The day is officially rolled up and put away. I’m free to watch movies or stare at the wall, no longer holding myself accountable for what I might or might not have gotten done because the time for getting something done is over until tomorrow.” I found this book very depressing because it gave me so much nostalgia about my relationship with my friend Andrew. He and I have been friends for ~16 years now and we've gone through many different phases of our relationship. There were times when we spent everyday locked up together in his basement watching Gilmore Girls and listening to Jack Johnson, then there were years that went by where we maybe sent three messages to each other. In recent years, we became very close as we were both going through breakups, and since have drifted apart again as we move on with our lives. I think both of us know that the distance doesn't mean we are less important to each other than we once were, but rather our priorities have shifted. It's hard, with a significant other, pets, full time jobs, etc. to make the investments in our relationship that we did in our early twenties. We simply don't have the time or energy. Nevertheless, I love him the same amount as I always have, and I inevitably drew parallels to Thomas' relationship with Chuck as she describes it. We've known each other so long that we don't have to talk, and when we do we don't have to say anything. When he asks me if I'd like to take a trip around the world I can say yes knowing I'll never have to go."While the book is mainly centered around this friendship, other bleak themes Thomas writes about include cancer, alcoholism, and mortality. Thomas' daughter gets cancer and it's obviously devastating to any family. One thing I found interesting is because of the likelihood of relapse once you're in remission, Thomas couldn't even find joy in her daughter being cancer-free because she felt like she was just biding time until it came back. I know this is exactly how I'd feel if god forbid anyone I loved got sick. Thomas also falls into a spell of alcoholism. She drinks beers all day out of what seems like boredom but beneath the surface is actually just her fearing death and trying to die at the same time. It's disturbing. There are three things that make me want to drink: difficult times, when I want alcohol to either alleviate the pain or allow me to feel it; clear days that make me want to scribble all over the irritating blue sky; and well, waking up in the morning.”  Meg and I are also suckers for any kind of writing about grief. I think in some brat-like fashion we each think we've experienced it but we're in for a very rude awakening one day. I loved this passage about grief as she reflects on her late husband:Grief is different from worry. I don't want to remember what it was like before, eating muffins and reading the paper together on the porch. I don't want to remember him planting the wild grasses that he loved, or the way he smiled at me, or his generous heart. I don't want to remember walking down Broadway holding hands. I am still shocked by what happened. I am used to never getting used to it. But grief overtakes me in the coffee aisle, or sweeping the porch, or smiling at the dogs, catching me unaware. Grief is not a pleasure, but it makes me remember, and I am grateful."...and this one on anger:Anger is a luxury. Anger wants answers, retribution, reason, something that makes sense. Anger wants a story, stories help us make sense out of everything. But while we scramble to help those who need it, who has time for anger? Who has time to make sense out of anything? There is only what is. Anger is a distraction. Anger removes me from grief, and the opportunity to be helpful.” Being old, naturally she's terrified of dying, but I also think sometimes old people are also eagerly anticipating death in a "let's just get this over with" type of way. My mom's grandma is 99 and I was visiting with her over the weekend. I asked her if she was looking forward to seeing everyone for our Christmas party next weekend. She said no. I imagine being old similar to being 9 months pregnant, you just want to give birth already but you're also absolutely terrified to give birth. I've never been pregnant or old so I really have no clue what I'm talking about.Thomas and her beloved dogs (doesn't this couch fabric scream cool old person???)Lastly, I love to read Thomas' rhetoric around dogs. I am a dog person, if you know me I very obviously love my dogs, but the way Thomas writes about them is more admiration than love. It's almost jealousy of their carelessness and lack of thought. Anyone with a dog can tell you they ground their owners. They make problems seem smaller, and offer an unparalleled type of companionship. For Thomas though, they're almost also a reason for getting up every morning and finishing the day. Small routines like feeding them and letting them out give this seventy year old woman with no other responsibilities some structure. It gives me a newfound appreciation for owning a dog. When I'm old, I'll still have to get out of bed to make sure my dog is fed. Here's what I love about dogs. They aren't careful not to disturb you. They don't overthink. They jump on the bed or the sofa or the chair and plop down. They come and they go... If one of them is lying next to me and suddenly prefers the sofa I don't take it personally... I used to lie in a lover's arms getting a stiff neck, or needing to scratch my nose, or losing all sensation in my arm, unwilling to move lest the man find out I wasn't comfortable in his embrace..."I would still recommend A Three Dog Life over this one if you're looking to get your feet wet with Thomas' writing, but this was a good read as well and had some really meaningful moments for me. I always think how I'll make a great old person since I love down time so much, but I obviously can't understand the anxieties that must come with aging. If you have a senior in your life that enjoys reading, I think they'd love the humour in this. Otherwise I probably wouldn't recommend anyone depress themselves reading this just for fun. If you like a more traditional story line, or action of any kind in your reading, this particular writing style will drive you absolutely nuts and bore you to death.Helter Skelter Book Club: Week 11 This is not the last week. I repeat, this is NOT the last week. The epilogue and afterword are going to be unreal guys let's keep up momentum. Next week will be the grand finale and we can pick a new book!!!!Even though I knew how this ended, I still found the convictions so fucking satisfying. Yes, jail, fuck you all you scary psychopaths. However, I found the sentencing especially grim. I don't know where I sit with the death penalty really so it's a hard subject for me to read about. On one hand, I want them to face the ultimate punishment, the worst their is, but on the other hand, I want them to rot in jail for a lifetime and never get the freedom death offers them. I especially liked Bugliosi keeping his statements during sentencing short and sweet. "If this is not a case worthy of the death penalty, what would be?"... This is so powerful because honestly when it's positioned that way, they for sure do deserve it. I also liked the parts about the girls' families and how some chose to stand by their kids and others wanted nothing more to do with them. I wonder how I'd feel? I'd want my child in jail, to be contained and have the opportunity for treatment, but I wouldn't want her to die I don't think. I'd hope I'd go to court and try to plead for a life sentence. But, I am a pussy so... I don't want to talk too much I mostly want to know what do you guys think? Are we happy with how this went?Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea by Tami Oldham Ashcraft Whenever Katie Gibbs tells me about a book I buy it the next day. She has single-handedly recommended me more books than anyone else in my life combined. She kick-started my obsession with Everest, long-term travel accounts, and pretty much any story about perseverance. Katie is an amazing storyteller and I could listen to her tell me the plot of any book for hours. So naturally when she mentioned Red Sky in Mourning I was already writing it down on my phone's notepad and planning my trip to Indigo the next morning. Red Sky in Mourning is Tami Oldham's account of her survival after her fiance is lost at sea after an unexpected storm.Tami and Richard were both avid sailors and had spent years working on boats, both as sailors and as craftsmen. They agree to sail a couple's boat from Tahiti to San Diego as a way to make some extra cash, before embarking on a long trip sailing around the world. They're struck by a storm and after being knocked unconscious below deck Tami regains consciousness to find the ship half destroyed and Richard nowhere in sight.I've always been pretty interested in sailing (of course not interested enough to actually give it a try myself) and this probably stems from my desire to be a marine biologist / love of the ocean. I love that sailing is so hands on. I have always been fascinated with lost-at-sea stories (In the Heart of the Sea) and am also obsessed with the documentary Maidentrip about a Dutch girl who became the youngest person to sail around the world. I honestly don't know why I am so interested in these stories ... part of me thinks it's because how unforgiving the ocean is and how little we know about it.I mean, imagine the hell Tami goes through. You wake up and your fiance is gone ... you would hope he died instantly because after everything I've read I've decided that being lost at sea is probably the worst way you can go. It is slow and painful, you either starve to death or die of dehydration - a fact even more torturous considering you are surrounded by water. Meg and I always said we would just swim as far down as we could or at least just inhale as much water as it takes to burst our lungs. We do not have the survivalist gene.Oldham and her fiancee RichardThere are some really powerful lines that show her grief. My favourite was when she is considering what rations she has and she thinks to herself: "Richard will be thirsty when I find him." How sad??? This is the stuff Didion writes about ... the magical thinking you are plagued with.Tami ends up spending 30+ days at sea, using her own knowledge of navigation to try and aim for Hawaii. She has to ration her food and water, make repairs on the boat, and also grieve the death of the love of her life. That's what also adds an extra terrifying layer - not just losing your fiance, but having to endure the aftermath of the disaster ALONE.One thing I liked about this book (because I am sick) is that she considers suicide at least three times after the storm:I couldn't think clearly. My head throbbed and my body ached with every movement. There was nothing else I could think to do, short of jumping overboard and ending this nightmare. If Richard had beckoned, I would have jumped." The first one is obviously pretty heartbreaking ... she is so miserable and devastated over Richard's death that she just sits and sobs for the first handful of days. She starts to hear this "voice" that acts like her survival compass ... telling her to eat, drink, to get up and get to work. I would have told this voice to fuck off and then tried to hold my breath until I died. The voice does serve as a bit of comic relief to the narrative, and again this is best exemplified when she threatens to kill herself again:'Man, I could get wasted on this,' I announced to no one. 'I bet if I drank it all, I could die of alcohol poisoning.'The voice asks "what would be the point?"Shailene Woodley as Oldham in the upcoming movie adaptation Adrift, after spending an entire shoot having buckets of ice water dumped on her.The thing I didn't enjoy about this is that I don't love a book that ends in any sort of Christian belief... At the end Tami does explicitly say she thinks God saved her, blah blah. Again, this isn't really for me but it doesn't take too much away from the book. I think at the end of the day tell yourself whatever you have to to endure whatever hell you've been through, so whatever.She is an interesting person in that if you are looking for a strong, badass woman to admire she is certainly it. There is a part in the book where she talks about one of her earlier voyages and how the guy leading the expedition essentially got lost. She didn't know how to navigate at the time and decided on the spot she would never be put in that position again. She hated being helpless and immediately returned home to learn how to calculate your position at sea. This essentially saves her life years later.When is this streak of the devil going to end? I didn't want to think of the devil - Satan. This was enough hell for me. But my imagination started taking over. I warily looked around and started shaking. I hugged myself, trying to stop the involuntary rattle. The devil was here, near, coming to get me ..."Woodley as Oldham again, recreating the disaster that was Oldham's hairAgain, I liked this book because it does show you a real portrait of grief and its absurdities: how she believes she will somehow find Richard in the middle of the ocean after she drifted for ~2 straight days unconscious... My favourite was after she makes it to Hawaii and is rescued and her hair is one giant knot. These hairdressers tell her she will probably just have to shave it off and she immediately bawls her eyes out. She has already lost so much but she refuses to lose her hair. She ends up finding a group who spend three full days untangling her hair. This is so perfect to me because it is so weirdly human. It seems like such a small thing to care about but you somehow understand its enormity.I will wrap up by mentioning that this is being adapted into a movie starring Shailene Woodley. You can see a lot of photos from her Instagram of them on set. I'm hoping it will be good, as there is nothing Meg and I love more than a good survival at sea flick.Helter Skelter Book Club: Week 10 We are getting close to the end now! And unsurprisingly things are just as weird, or perhaps even weirder.This section deals with one topic I think is so, so crazy and I honestly can't believe I didn't know about it before reading this book. RONALD HUGHES GOES MISSING. One of Manson's attorneys just "disappears." I find this to be so terrifying and absurd, that I felt like Bulgosi almost underplays it.. Like how does the trial just keep on going after this? If I had been anywhere near the courtroom for the past seven months I would be like "that's it, I'm out."I thought it was also sort of interesting to read about the jury and when this trial took place. I know a few weeks ago I talked a lot about how long this trial was and how hard it would be on the jury, but in this section we get to see exactly when they were away from their families. The jury is stuck in those hotel rooms during Christmas and New Years ... can you imagine how shitting. It's kind of cool to read now since we are almost into the holidays ourselves.The other thing I thought was so, so funny was that Bulgosi mentions how the jurors started going to Disneyland together and would go out clubbing ... how hilarious. Lifelong friends I guess.The last thing I will mention is that I was very interested in the sections dealing with that one younger juror who has a crush on Linda... There is actually a movie about this but I can't remember what its called.2017 Holiday Gift Guide Stressed about what to get for those hard to shop for people like your boyfriend's mom or kid's teacher? We have you covered. Below are 10 books that would make great gifts for a wide range of ages, genders, and interests. Those who "don't read" don't deserve gifts anyways right?Since I've read this book I've gifted it more times than I'd have expected. Apatow is a well-known comedy writer, director, and producer (married to the beautiful Leslie Mann) and this book is a series of conversations with / write-ups on comedians that have inspired him. If you like comedy, stand-up or otherwise, you'll love this book. That's why it's so easy to gift. If you don't know the person he's discussing in the current section it's super easy to skip it, and there's a lot of personal details included that Apatow is able to provide because he's friends with a lot of these people and grew up in this community. The best part is all the sales from the paperback copy go to support a nonprofit for young aspiring writers called 826 National, so it's like two presents in one!I feel like any dad in the world would probably love this book? I mean I would also love it, but if you have to find a gift for a history buff / avid non-fiction reader than you definitely couldn't go wrong with this one. I had previously read Alone Against the North, another book by Shoalts, (full review here) and it was well written and interesting. This book is a little different in that it is more imaginative, and doesn't relate to Shoalts' own personal voyage. My dad loves history, and I think anyone could learn an extra thing or two about our country and its vast amount of geography.I think basically everyone likes to read memoirs by famous people and this one is brand spanking new so likely the person you're buying for doesn't have it yet. I anticipate this will be similar to most other memoirs by her comedic counterparts (Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, etc.) but those are wildly popular so I don't see much of an issue here... the other interesting thing is that her very recently ex-husband wrote the foreword which I expect will be kind of sad, when he wrote it they were still 'together'. While I feel like a celebrity memoir is a great gift idea, Anna Faris may not be suitable for every demographic. As an alternative, Nevertheless by Alec Baldwin was also recently published and would likely be better for a guy on your list or someone more mature...Again, in a way I feel like I am Christmas shopping for myself here, BUT this would be a perfect book for any basketball fanatic in your life. Serrano is a very funny writer for Bill Simmons' The Ringer. He is constantly coming up with hilarious listicles (like The Best Movie Homes, Ranked) and also tweeting insightful / perfect basketball memes. This isn't a traditional "text-only book" ... there are lots of colourful images, drawings, and hypotheticals.I wrote a very positive review on this short story collection here so it's obvious I really like this, but I also think it would make an excellent gift. Huebert is a London, ON local and is from the East Coast (also where all these stories are set) so I think it would appeal to a lot of Canadian readers. It would also make a great gift for people who aren't avid readers as the short story format makes it really easy to pick up for a week, put down for a month, pick back up on vacation, etc. I also think a wide variety of demographics would like this... it appeals to all ages and genders.This is still a hardcover edition, so be prepared to spend.. but it is obviously the perfect gift for pop-culture junkies, sports fans, pseudo-intellectuals, etc. This is a collection of Klosterman's previously published essays from places like Grantland, Esquire, GQ, etc. It is also his 10th publication, hence the giant X on it. I love Klosterman and was lucky enough to already received this as a gift myself.So this book is actually the last part of a series Hilderbrand has slowly been revealing which include Winter Street, Winter Stroll, and Winter Storms before it... I think giving all three together would make a wonderful gift, but they don't NEED to be read in order (I don't think). Hilderbrand writes very beautiful fiction set on Nantucket Island. Anyone who likes to read romantic dramas (think Emily Griffin, Jodi Picoult, Nicholas Sparks) would also enjoy Hilderbrand and probably be elated that you've introduced them to a new author because she has a massive repertoire. Winter Solstice is new just in time for Christmas and I think this collection would be perfect for a mom, mother-in-law, sister, friend, teacher, etc. or just anyone who enjoys fiction.I mean I would really recommend buying ANY Joan Didion book for ANY ONE in your life. Because I guarantee their life will be much more interesting after reading one of her publications. The reason I am suggesting South and West is because it is her newest publication. You can also dream of warmer destinations like California and other southern states while freezing your butt off in Canada. This was also a selection for Emma Roberts and Kara Preiss' Belletrist book club, so if you have a friend who loves celebrities they would feel pretty cool carrying this book around.This would be a great pick for anyone on your list who is into science, psychology, medicine, research, or academia. Owen is a neuroscientist at Western University and Meghan wrote an entire review on this book here. It's about his research on communicating with coma patients and I haven't read it yet but I know that it is COOL. It's not super science-y and involves a personal element for Owen. I think this would be an unexpected gift for someone hard to shop for.This book is all over Indigo again because of the recent CBC / Sarah Polley adaptation. I wrote a full review on it recently that you can read here. All Margaret Atwood books are great, but this one is certainly less bleak than The Handmaid's Tale (review here). I would recommend this to a reader of any age - a mom or a coworker. They can read the book and then binge watch the series on CBC for free!Helter Skelter Book Club: Week 9 These trial sections have been the most interesting for me. I was just in Mexico for the week and kept yelling at everyone encouraging me to hangout because I was READING ABOUT THE MANSON TRIAL OVER HERE. I am fascinated with how long this trial ran, how long just Bugliosi's case ran, and how long the jury was sequestered with NO CONTACT WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD. The court system is thrilling to me. I wish I had the drive to become a lawyer. Something that's becoming more and more clear is how stupid this family is. They try to poison Barbara in Hawaii, leaving like the biggest trail ever, and don't even succeed, pissing her off and making her want to testify even more. It's like they act on immediate impulse and don't think 30 seconds into the future about how easy they're making things for the cops. I also found it weird how Bugliosi tries to almost play therapist for some of the family members. Him telling Sandy he was "very disappointed in her" because he thought she understood that killing is weird is so bizarre. It's almost like he's treating her like a child with special needs rather than just the killer she is and has proven to be... if he thought a good talking to would remediate her it seems weird he pushed so hard for the death penalty for the girls too...I feel extremely poorly for the defense attorneys. I love Bugliosi saying one of them came out of a meeting with the family members CRYING. They're being shuffled around like pawns, they can't do their jobs properly, none of their defendants actually seem to care if they're found guilty (except maybe Manson), and none of them show any remorse for their actions. It seems insane to me that they would rest their case without a single witness but then it also makes sense... it would be too hard with what they're working with to try and prove any points themselves. Better to just try and hold down the fort. Peninsula Sinking by David Huebert I wanted to preface this review by saying that David Huebert is a friend of mine (and Meghan's). Meghan met him at an event for Western grad students in her first ~3 days at Western while Dave was beginning his PhD. Since then I've tagged along to a number of hangouts and imposed myself on their friendship. With Meg gone, I keep in contact by way of social media and local events to support Dave's new publications. So, the point of this preface is to say that Dave, and his wife Natasha, are friends of mine, but not THAT good of friends that I'd pretend to like his book if I didn't. Now that that's out of the way, I absolutely loved this book. I've gone back and read stories multiple times, I have recommended it to countless people, and you can bet this won't be the last time you hear about it on this blog. It is descriptive and honest and real and I am completely envious of how talented a writer Huebert is. It's honestly disgusting. Peninsula Sinking is a collection of short stories that take place in the Maritimes. Huebert, being from the Maritimes himself clearly has a passion for his homeland. The beautiful cover art features a gold outline of Nova Scotia and the title itself speaks to some of the challenges facing the province's population. As a Canadian, a short story enthusiast, and an avid reader in general, this book appeals to me on several levels. I mostly bought it to support Dave when he was in London with his publisher Biblioasis promoting it but now that I've read the whole thing in it's entirety I'm already planning to order a few other copies for Christmas gifts.I  wait in line with all the fans at events for a personal inscription despite my own belief that I'm somehow VIPThe collection opens with the story "Enigma" which was the CBC Short Story Prize winner in 2016 (you can read it online here). It is a beautiful story about a woman named Heather whose horse is dying and she is deciding / waiting to put it out of it's misery as she reflects on her past as a student and animal lover, whale watching with her family as a child, and her personal relationships. As a reader you recognize how all these things connect, and Huebert imposes Heather's dilemma on you, whether you're a horse person or not (I am not). This is the case with all of the animals represented in Huebert's work. For example, I am not a cat person but in one of the stories called "How Your Life" I found myself actually crying over one of the character's dead cats, all because of the way Huebert writes the scenario as though it's your own...You are a single thought and that thought is a colossal no. You are kneeling on the floor and touching her and petting her and checking gently for the pulse that you already know is not there. You have never felt a sadness so total. You are kneeling in some version of child's pose with both hands on your beloved, unbreathing cat, your body heaving and your lungs skittering and the snow seeming to crawl across your face and you have no idea who you are thinking to but all you can think is let me make a bargain. Let me give this cat all of my breath and all of my blood. let me divide my remaining years in two. You would give everything now, you would sacrifice your very lifespan, to have this creature spasm and stand up and mewl and return everything to normal."I can recognize and stick myself in this exact same situation. I can imagine it's my dog and want to die. "How Your Life" was one of my favourite stories from the entire collection, mostly because it's so relatable, but also because I feel like some of Miranda's (the main character) anecdotes are vaguely related to Meghan's own experiences. For example, it opens with Miranda being attacked by an owl on a run, and the hot butcher from the market comes to her rescue, to her horror. ANYONE who knew Meghan while she lived in London knows she had a crush on the "hot butcher" at the Covent Garden Market. Mostly because I told everybody. One time she was walking home from a movie and treated herself to a fudge brownie for the walk when she ran into the butcher on the street. Huebert has insisted numerous times that his stories are all fictional, but he also told me once that he gets a lot of ideas from stories he hears from others. I am convinced this hot butcher is not a coincidence. The other reason I love "How Your Life" is because it discusses some of the issues that people my age (twenties) face when they graduate and want to live in the Maritimes. It's really hard. Meghan can speak to this a lot better than I can, but I also think this passage sums up a lot of what I've heard from her and her friends: When I was living here after my degree, time seemed to stop. Years of idling. Couldn't get it together to go back to school. Applying for 'real' jobs every day and making minimum plus pennies at the coffee shop. Couldn't meet anyone exciting because I knew everyone already."It's this level of detail and knowledge about the location, the people who live there, and those people's feelings and experiences, that makes Peninsula Sinking so amazing.Huebert doing a reading at Attic Books in London, ON on the Biblioasis book tour.My other favourite story from the collection is "Drift" which is about a woman whose brother is in an accident working in a mine. I liked this story so much and was so affected by it because my boyfriend works in a mine setting as well. I think the emotions of the sister, and the way she remembers her brother tugged on a lot of chords for me. My least favourite story was called "Limousines" because I just didn't find it as relatable as the others. It's about a new married couple who live on a dairy farm and it's  just as well written and detailed as the others but I just have no link to that lifestyle.One thing I love about Huebert's writing is the way he inserts facts that add depth and history to his stories. For example this beautiful passage is from a story about a man whose job is to go in a submarine for extended periods of time and tests missiles:The song of the humpback whale is always a love song. Constantly evolving within the dialects of the eleven major worldwide populations, the humpbacks' undersea chorus is a perpetual conversation that qualifies as music according to all known definitions. It develops collectively and constantly, an oral tradition that has been evolving for thirty million years. Only male humpbacks sing, and their song is thought to be part of an elaborate courtship ritual, the most complex in the animal world. But even as they sing to impress or seduce female, humpbacks also sing with one another, voices crooning together as they sound their mournful dirge. The requiem rendered all the more lovely to the human ear by this lack of words- the beautiful confusion of a language beyond sense or understanding."Huebert uses these factual passages the way a director might use fade ins/outs in film to switch between scenes in his stories. While it's common knowledge Meghan and I are obsessed with useless facts, I find these passages to add an extra layer of detail to Huebert's fictional stories. They exist about different elements relevant to the plot, for example there is a similar passage on coal in "Drift" but many do have a large animal focus. It may be worth noting that animals in text play a large role in Huebert's PhD. Huebert is a really cool, but also annoying, author in that he is a perfect example that talented writers can be successful with tons of discipline and determination. He's submitted to countless writing contests, published poetry collections, and re-written stories hundreds of times before releasing Peninsula Sinking. "Engima" for example, he re-wrote over and over again to fit into the constrictions of CBC's contest guidelines. He's also incredibly humble and approachable and I know for a fact would speak to anybody who had questions about their own aspirations as a writer. He's very active in the London writing community. Huebert and his wife Natasha also just had an incredibly frigging cute baby and to be honest I'm really jealous and annoyed at the entire direction their life is heading... The dedication on Peninsula Sinking is simply, "For Natasha". This is one of the most romantic things I can think of and I'm pissed.Dave and his new baby Rose I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone, Canadian or not, who likes fiction, short stories, or beautiful books for their coffee tables. It would especially recommend it to any East Coasters. I've already told Meghan if she doesn't get it for her dad for Christmas I'm going to. Helter Skelter Book Club: Week 8 CHARLES MANSON IS DEAD. This book club may have actually killed him. How frigging timely are we guys???This section was interesting to me because we get to see a little bit of the juror's experience. Could you even imagine working as a juror for six months in complete isolation?? I love the joke where Bugulosi says they have sentenced criminals to shorter durations.I really don't think I could have lasted as a juror. It would be so cool to be apart of such a historic trial, but imagine being away from your friends and family for that long? Or also about being stuffed into a hotel room with a bunch of strangers from all over the country with the only thing in common being Charles Manson.If I was on this jury I can assure you that I would also end up on trial for murder... that defense lawyer Kanarek enrages me ... how his whole system is to just prolong the trial / confuse jurors. Even just reading about him at the trial pisses me off.Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood Margaret Atwood's career has been described to me in two different ways:Meg once said, "I can't decide what's better, her fiction or her poetry." My friend Dave (a talented writer in his own right) also told me he thinks the reason university profs so often belittle her work or think poorly of her is due to their own jealousy.. that Atwood was so talented she could have had a well known career in academia but instead did the one thing many professors aspire to - she became a best-selling author.These two sentiments have always stayed with me because I think they describe her level of talent and success as an author perfectly. Atwood is the Canadian fiction you're assigned in undergrad that you love. I have read only a handful of her books but each time I am compelled to read them quickly, they never seem boring, and they always leave me buying another one.As soon as I heard that Sarah Polley (a favourite director of mine) was adapting Alias Grace into a miniseries for CBC, I knew I had to read it before the episodes landed.I was already super interested in the plot because I am fascinated by the blurring of non-fiction and fiction, and this was exactly the case with Alias Grace. Atwood writes in the foreword that she did a lot of research on Grace Marks' case and tried to use as much as it as she could in her book. The holes left in the story, and she admits there were many, she filled with fiction.The road to death is a lonely highway, and longer than it appears, even when it leads straight down from the scaffold, by way of a rope; and it's a dark road, with never any moon shining on it, to light your way."Sarah Gadon as Grace Marks in CBC's Alias GraceAlias Grace is about the "celebrated murderess" Grace Marks and her life sentence in the Kingston Penitentiary. Grace was convicted of murder in the death of her employer Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery (Grace's boss). She was tried alongside James McDermott, a handyman also employed by Kinnear. McDermott was sentenced to death by hanging. The book goes back and forth between Grace retelling her side of the story to a psychologist and her living in the penitentiary.As usual, I always forget how funny Atwood is as a writer, but her ability for comedy is so clear in Grace's character. She is constantly making little comments even when stuck in horrible situations. There's a scene where she is describing how McDermott was chasing her around the house trying to rape her and how she stopped him:What I had said had cooled his ardour, as they say in books; or as Mary Whitney would say,  he'd mislaid the poker. For at that moment Mr. Kinnear, dead as he was, was the stiffer man of the two of them."There are all sorts of little comments like this throughout the book that makes Grace a sympathetic character.I have noticed there's nothing like a death to get your foot in the door."A lot of the humour seems to be used to demonstrate how all human beings have a dark side, and as they said in the TV adaption, "if we were on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged."The book also tackles a few topics I always love to read about: the trustworthiness of the narrator and our obsession with murder.1. Is Grace trustworthy?This is the main thing you struggle with as a reader. We are constantly hearing multiple different stories of what happened in the death of Kinnear and Montgomery. We hear Grace's own explanation, though she admits she has no memory of a large chunk of that timeline, but we also hear McDermott's confession, as well as the contradicting stories Grace told in court and to the police after her arrest.You want to believe she is innocent but you can never quite tell if she completely is.They also sort of allude to the fact that Grace may have been suffering from dissociative identity disorder, but it is never confirmed. We get glimpses of this throughout the book, but it isn't like Fight Club, so don't get too excited.For though the Penitentiary was not exactly a homey place, yet it was the only home I'd known for almost 30 years; and that is a long time, longer than many people spend on this earth, and although it was forbidding and a place of sorrow and punishment, at least I knew its ways. To go from a familiar thing, however undesirable, into the unknown, is always a matter for apprehension, and I suppose that is why so many people are afraid to die."2. Why do we love murder so much??The other theme throughout the book is definitely our sick obsession with death. This is perfectly summed up in one of the poems selected before the start of a new chapter. It's a line from Edgar Allen Poe and goes like this: "The death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world."The entire book people are obsessing over Grace... she is constantly put on display in the penitentiary and her psychologist is always fantasizing about her. The opening lines of the book have her questioning why she is called a "celebrated murderess" and how confused she is over the "celebrated" adjective that is normally reserved for actresses or musicians.Obviously this sensationalizing hasn't changed in the last ~150 years. We are still obsessed with death and gore, and even more so when anyone involved is attractive. Here is one of my favourite lines in the book, it's reminiscent of that short story where the town draws lots and then stones one of their neighbours to death for entertainment:It was raining, and a huge crowd standing in the mud, some of them come from miles away. If my own death sentence had not been commuted at the last minute, they would have watched me hang with the same greedy pleasure. There were many women and ladies there; everyone wanted to stare, they wanted to breathe death in like a fine perfume, and when I read of it I thought, If this is a lesson to me, what is it I am supposed to be learning?"I don't know the lesson either.Anna Paquin, Sarah Polley, and Margaret Atwood on set of CBC's Alias Grace3. Sarah Polley and CBC's adaptation Well, I'd love to say the adaption was great, but it was very much a CBC production, not the quality TV we got to experience with Hulu's adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale. Sarah Polley wrote a good script, and I want to stress how great of a job Sarah Gadon did as Grace, but the rest of the cast really dragged the whole thing down. Not to mention the score was god awful.Again, Sarah Gadon was REALLY good. She was everything I pictured when I thought of Grace, and her humour and delivery was spot on. It was cool that most of the cast was Canadian (save for Zachari Levi), but honestly Anna Paquin was nothing to shout home about, and David Cronenberg was CRINGEWORTHY (stick to directing buddy). You can watch for free on CBC.com though, so there's that. Either way, read the book!!Helter Skelter Book Club: Week 7 Alright. This section of the book we learned a few new details while getting the run down from Linda regarding the nights of the Tate and Labianca murders. This girl is the only one who associated herself with the Manson Family and actually feels remorse and guilt for what has happened. So even though I think she is a bit crazy for being able to swallow all the things Manson said and did, I actually felt bad for her, that she was exposed to such violence that night and having to shack up with some of the most fucked up people on earth. Plus the constant worry of someone hurting her baby. Poor girl. I’d have a hard time sitting outside listening to people scream and beg for their lives too. I’m sure those sounds haunted her forever. Clearly, Linda has a conscience and a pretty good memory. Some of the details she could recall, like what lights were on outside the Tate residence and what direction the screen was sliced, I wouldn’t remember on a good day, let alone when you’d be about to attack and kill 4 people/while people are being slaughtered. One of the most disturbing details to me was when, back in the car, Katie complained that her hand hurt because she kept hitting bones as she was stabbing. She probably said it like she had heartburn or something. Linda also informs Bugliosi of the handful of other “almost-murder victims” Manson had thought to attack the night the Labiancas were killed. This detail in itself gave me straight chills. Death literally came to some of their doorsteps that night and by some small twist of fate, didn’t knock. Also, the fact that the Family members hitchhiked and went into a restaurant means a lot of people that night would have actually seen, spoken to and interacted with straight up fucking psycho killers after they’d done their evil deeds. Can you imagine seeing the news and being like, “HOLY FUCK, THOSE kids were in MY CAR the other night!” or the server who gave Charlie his milkshake. That would be quite a story, hey. “I served Charlie Manson A MILKSHAKE the night he had the Labiancas killed.” I can’t imagine forgetting that creep’s face even on a busy night. *shudder* There were a couple of quotes that stood out to me, but the one that really gave me the creeps was, (referring to the plot to kill everyone at 10050 Ceilo Dr.) “Just a little over 24 hours later, his prediction would be fulfilled, in all its gory detail, at 10050 Ceilo Drive. With a little help from his friends.” A simple quote from the Beatles but to twist it and think of the Family as the friends, tres creepy. Listening to the Beatles will never be the same!!!! (Side note, I wonder how the Beatles felt about all of this “Helter Skelter” business and sort of being “associated” with Manson.) Something else that I thought about was how Charlie was sickly smart in his attempts to pin everything on the blacks/Panthers. For example, something as simple as throwing that wallet out the window in hopes a black man would find it and be arrested for having stolen credit cards. That is probably exactly what would have happened back then, given how racism still is in the world. Back then, police were looking for any reason to lock up young black men. (watch 13th on Netflix. So good.) If Charlie had kept doing shit like this, trying to pin crimes on the blacks, who knows. Maybe Helter Skelter really would’ve happened. Honestly, I really only had this thought after watching that documentary. The racial divide in America is still a huge issue, clearly. At this point, I’m done reading about how fucking useless the detectives on the Tate case are and how Bugliosi must struggle to get them or police to help him with anything. 2 WEEKS pass without them searching for the evidence he requested!!!?! I’m glad he basically told them they look like idiots because a 10 year old and a tv news crew found what they should have. IDIOTS. UGH. Thank goodness the Labianca detectives actually TRIED and did what Bugliosi asked of them, so they were some help. They didn’t want to put undercovers in the Family (for bogus reasons) even though it likely would’ve prevented more murders and given them an advantage, knowing the Family’s next moves. Y’all look real dumb know that there’s a book written about this. BUT THEN THE LAST PAGE WHEN BUGLIOSI DISCOVERS THE DOOR. Pissed me off beyond words. WE THOUGHT THE POLICE WERE CLUELESS BEFORE. “It was considered so unimportant that to date no one had even bothered to book it into evidence.” Go figure. The link that connected the killers to the murders was sitting in the basement for 5 months while they all had their thumbs up their asses letting Bugliosi solve this case solo. Thanks guys!!!! Man, I can’t even begin to imagine his frustrations throughout this case and trial. There were a few more things that took place in this section but these were bits that got me thinking. At this point, I’m basically rooting for Linda. I guess I’m just happy there is someone with some real human emotion in this story now. Obviously Linda’s life (like everyones’) was forever changed by joining the Family. Interesting to see the effects on her. As we know, you won’t find an ounce of guilt or feelings of remorse or fear coming from the others. I’m enjoying the book, but now I want to find out the Family members’ fates. They all should’ve got the chair. Author Spotlight: Anita Shreve Anita Shreve is hands down my favourite fiction author. Many years ago an ex-boyfriend's mom gave me one of her books for Christmas knowing that I enjoyed reading. I remember thinking at the time how odd it would be to gift me that book when I'd never read that author before or mentioned wanting to, but I'm so glad she did. I can confidently and consistently pick up any of her books and enjoy it. Shreve is also a go-to recommendation for me when friends or family ask for a book they should read next as I think she appeals to a wide variety of female readers, whether you read a lot or not. The random Christmas gift makes all kinds of sense to me now that I've read through ~half of her repertoire.She writes fiction that centers around hard relationships, but the stories are never predictable, cheesy, or formulaic. If you understand my distinction between fluffy fiction and serious fiction, I would argue Shreve writes serious fiction. She has a way with syntax and word choice that accurately describes emotions and relationships in a way that I didn't know words could capture. You will recognize yourself or people you know in the situations she writes about. I haven't read all of her books. I typically buy any new titles I haven't read of hers at used book stores, but I don't seek them out to buy new. I'm going to discuss them all chronologically and share my thoughts on the ones I've read. I will say that although I love her work, she has a substantial amount of historical pieces that I'm not sure I'll ever read, purely because I hate that genre. But never say never I suppose.Anita ShreveEden Close (1989) --- I haven't read this book yet but it's sitting on my shelf at home. I had no idea actually that it was her first book until just now so I'm inspired to read it as one of my next few books. The storyline follows a man returning to his hometown for his mother's funeral and re-building a relationship with his female neighbour who went through a tragedy when they were young.Strange Fits of Passion (1991) --- This is definitely one of my favourite of all her books that I've read so far. It was more suspenseful and mysterious than her usual stories and I read the whole thing in like, one shift at my old job on a golf course. The story is about a woman fleeing an abusive relationship and starting over again in a secluded location where she meets a new love interest. It's basically Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven but way, way better and significantly less cheesy. The story flashes back and forth between the woman's current life and her life with her previous abusive husband. I've recommended this book a bunch, and one time I lent it out and the person's dog ate it. I've since replaced it because I feel like I need to always  own a copy.Where or When (1993) --- I haven't read this book and I don't own a copy yet so it's one to look out for in the book stores. The story looks right up my alley, as it's about two ex-lovers who begin writing intimate letters to each other thirty years after their initial romance. Both characters are married and with families (this is essentially my worst nightmare).Resistance (1995) --- I haven't read this book either and to be honest, this is probably one of her least appealing novels to me as I hate period pieces. It's about the wife of a resistance worker in Nazi Germany who falls in love with a wounded American pilot while harbouring him. I just found out this book was adapted into a film starring Bill Paxton and Julia Ormond. I will likely never read this book or watch the movie, but it's good to know she had some novels adapted as I had zero idea.Julie Ormond and Bill Paxton in the 2003 movie adaptation of ResistanceThe Weight of Water (1997) --- This book is amazing but there is a horrific twist of events that had me actually feeling ill for a time after reading it. A photographer and her family take a boat trip out to a monument she's been researching amidst her own marital problems and there are all kinds of troubles. Shreve does a really good job in this book of describing the issues in the marriage without having the characters actually spend too much time discussing them. Subtle things like the way they sleep next to each other, and how they interact around their daughter give the stress away. These details take her writing to another level in my opinion. This novel AGAIN I JUST LEARNED was adapted into a film starring Sean Penn, Elizabeth Hurley and Sarah Polley. This I will watch... this weekend if not tonight. Let's hope it doesn't ruin the book for me.There are moments in your life when you know that the sentence that will come next will change your life forever, although you realize, even as you are anticipating this sentence, that your life has already changed. Changed some time ago, and you simply didn't know it.” - The Weight of WaterThe Pilot's Wife (1998) --- This is arguably Shreve's most popular novel and I think it was part of Oprah's book club at some point or something. I don't know. There's something to do with Oprah on the cover of my copy but I'm too lazy to go see what it is. Anyways... this story is about - you guessed it - a pilot's wife, who learns (after his death) that her husband had a completely separate family overseas on his regular flight path. It's unclear to me why this particular book got so much publicity as it was probably my least favourite of the ones I've read, but I did absolutely love the scene where the wife is told her husband is dead. If there's anything Meg and I love it's a good breakdown. As an interesting fact, Shreve's father was also a pilot, so I've always wondered and never been able to verify whether this plotline had any factual basis... This was her last novel to be adapted (and only into a TV movie). The cast looks lackluster with the exception of Alison Pill who is almost enough to make me want to watch it...No matter how often Kathryn observed the phenomenon, she found it hard to comprehend: the way nothing could remain as it had been, not a house that was falling down, not a woman's face that had once been beautiful, not childhood, not a marriage, not love... She thought about the impossibility of ever knowing another person. About the fragility of the constructs people make... To be relieved of love, she thought, was to give up a terrible burden." - The Pilot's WifeFortune's Rocks (1999) --- I haven't read this one either and it's another period piece so I'm not entirely sure whether I will or not. What I do love is that it's set on the American East Coast (one of my favourite book locations- is this wierd?) and that it's about the affair between a high class young lady and an older man.The Last Time They Met (2001) --- I read and loved this one. You can read my full review here. I didn't enjoy the story right off the bat but by the end it was one of my favourite plotlines of any of her books. It has a great twist that makes you re-think the entire story in a new light. It's about a woman and a man who fall in love in their teens and then re-connect at two different periods in their lives. The book takes you through these periods in reverse sequence which is a bit hard to follow but entirely worth it for the point Shreve is trying to make. I really love stories that take place over a long period of time, but I know a lot of people don't. This wouldn't be top of my list for recommendations only because it is slow at first, but if you can commit to finishing it I think it's fantastic. There's also an amazing breakdown scene in this book as well if you're twisted like me.Sean Penn and Elizabeth Hurley in the 2000 movie adaption of The Weight of WaterAll He Ever Wanted (2001) --- This is another period piece that I haven't read, and it's about an oppressive marriage as told through the eyes of the oppressive husband, which is even less up my alley than period pieces... The couple meets when the man saves the wife from a burning building (so she already has Stockholm Syndrome) and then they pursue a romantic relationship and marriage which is, according to the synopsis, bad.Sea Glass (2002) --- I haven't read this book either but it's top of my list as it's about a young couple who gets married and buys a house right before the economy crashes. They then have to make all sorts of terrifying financial decisions together, something about relationships that is SO fascinating to me.Body Surfing (2003) --- I did read this one but it didn't stay with me for very long... not one of my absolute favourites of hers. The book is about a divorcee and widow who tutors for a rich family one summer and ends up in a romantic triangle with both of the family's sons. It was definitely still amazing by all writing standards, but in terms of Shreve's repertoire specifically, it wouldn't be my first recommendation.Light on Snow (2004) --- I think this is definitely one of Shreve's saddest books. The story is told retrospectively by one of the characters as she reflects on her childhood when her and her single dad found a baby in the snow on their property. Despite being one of my favourite topics, I have a very hard time reading about the anxiety of parenting. I think if you had your own kids this book would be especially devastating.A Wedding in December (2005) --- The plot line of this book is very similar to that of a movie I love called The Romantics (2010)- which is also a book but I haven't read it. A bunch of old classmates come together for one of the couples' weddings and all of their incestuous history comes to the forefront. There's part of me that hates these stories because I can't relate at all. I never had a core co-ed group of friends that have stayed in touch really... but part of me also really loves these stories because I find these types of friend groups fascinating. I'm almost weirdly jealous of them in a way. If you enjoy reading about romance and/or complex friendships this book is especially great.Testimony (2008) --- I remember when I was reading this book feeling like it couldn't possibly be Shreve's work. The writing style was the same but the subject matter of this book is wildly different from anything she's done that I've read. The story is about a group of boys at a private school who are accused of sexual assault, and how their lives individually fall apart based on these accusations. I think this is an amazing read, especially in today's climate. This book switches between 3-4 different perspectives as well, and includes the students, the teachers and the parents which I really like. There are some great themes that come up in this, not only sexual assault and victim sympathy, but also parenting and rich privilege (not sure if this is a real term or something I just made up). While this is unlike most of her other work, I really loved it and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in these topics.And so a person can never promise to love someone forever because you never know what might come up, what terrible thing the person you love might do.” - TestimonyA Change in Altitude (2009) --- I recommended this book in our post on books to get you excited for an adventure as it's very expedition based. The story is about American newlyweds who move to Kenya for the husband to do some medical work. The wife, a journalist, struggles to find an identity for herself there. The couple joins up with some other local couples and take up hiking as a hobby. On one of the hikes there is a major tragedy, and the combination of guilt and blame eats away at the newlyweds as a couple, and at their friendships with the others. The incident is actually shocking and I remember clearly calling Meg to discuss it with her. In a way, I wish it happened in real life so I had more reason to talk about it. If I was going to re-read one of her books it would likely be this one.John Heard and Alison Pill in the 2002 TV movie adaptation of The Pilot's WifeRescue (2010) --- This was the first book I ever read of Shreve's (gifted to me by my ex-boyfriend's mom) and it had me instantly obsessed with her writing. The plot to this story is not typically my favourite. Man and woman fall into a tumultuous love affair and have a baby, mom abandons family, 18 years later daughter is spiraling recklessly, mom re-appears in family's life, family adjusts to new dynamics. It's pretty cliche. However, Shreve's writing is soooooooo good and I wish everyone would read this book first like I did to get hooked as well.Stella Bain (2013) --- I have this book sitting on my shelf unread also, although being another period piece, I'm not entirely sure how high on the list it is. It's set in WW1 and is about an American woman who is injured and taken in by a British surgeon and his wife. Again, not really my thing but there is obviously is a large demographic who likes these types of stories. The Stars are Fire (2017) --- This is Shreve's newest book and potentially something on my Christmas list. The story is set in 1947 and follows two women and their children as their homes face wildfires and their husbands join a group of volunteers to go help fight them. I feel like although this is historical fiction, I will maybe enjoy it since a) it's set on the American East Coast and b) my absolute favourite plot to anything is a wife at home who doesn't know the fate of her husband.If anyone has read any of the same ones I have, I am literally dying to discuss them with you... I have yet to meet another human who has read more than one of her books which I find absolutely baffling. If you love fiction and you are looking for a new author with a ton of material to sink your teeth into, Shreve is my first recommendation. If you've ever talked to me I've likely already recommended her to you.Helter Skelter Book Club: Week 6 I was really interested in this section because I believe it is one of the first times we get a closer look at Manson's persona, and what made him so successful as a cult leader.His entire personality is just a series of contradictions ... this is obvious with two points:1. That Bugliosi mentioned how the majority of his "supporters" that were outside of the cult were shocked that Manson is incredibly racist. He talks about how the black man needs to take power back from the white man, but he only plans for this because it ends with himself in power. His racism is clear to any one reading this book because we hear firsthand accounts from Sadie about how he ordered them to kill the Black Panther, and a lot of the horrible racist language he would use on the ranch.2. Manson is also incredibly sexist, which might come as a shock to outsiders considering those most committed to him / involved in the cult are women. But at the end of the day Manson acknowledges multiple times that he believes women are only good for sex, and that they serve no other purpose in society. This makes the fact that some of these women were willing to die for Manson even more depressing / confusing.One small detail I really liked about this section was when a Californian native mentions how it is basically "impossible to hitchhike anymore." This speaks to the paranoia that was running through the state after these grisly murders. Hitchhiking used to be common, with lots of our parents partaking, but now it is virtually unheard of among young people.I also loved how George Harrison refused to let the court quote his lyrics.This section ends with moving from Sadie as the star witness to Linda Kasabian. I have read the Joan Didion article about her looking for a dress for Linda for her court appearance, so I am looking forward to discussing it next week!10 Books Recommended by Book Bloggers One of the best things about starting this blog is that we get to work with so many other avid readers. We also thought you guys may have gotten tired of hearing us ramble on about the same types of books again and again, so we invited some of our favourite book bloggers to share one of their favourite books. You're welcome.This book was incredible when I read it and stayed with me for a while after I turned the last page. The Shock of the Fall is written from an honest and eye-opening perspective. Filer’s stream of consciousness-esque style of writing really allows the reader to immerse themselves into Matthew’s mind and more importantly shines light on the struggles of having schizophrenia. The author creates a character who not only invokes sympathy with the reader, but also challenges perceptions and stereotypes of mental health. The story reaches into the heart of the protagonist, and through his unreliable narration, allows the reader to gain a new perspective on the terrors of mental health. More importantly, it's a story about coping with loss, and how the strength of family endures even when sanity may not. With glimmers of Adrian Mole, this book is a heart-breaking and important piece of literature which illuminates so much for everyone who reads it. If nothing else, Filer’s novel helps educate the reader on understanding mental health and the dangers of stereotyping and making sweeping statements for all mental health issues. I 5 star adored this Swedish courtroom thriller and am amazed it hasn’t gotten more buzz in North America since its March release! In a nutshell, Quicksand is the movie Cruel Intentions (elite prep school, lots of money, partying, drugs, neglected high schoolers, and an intense love affair), if Sebastian (PS – Quicksand's main character is also named Sebastian…it’s almost too perfect!) had shot up his school and Annette had gone to trial for helping him. The story shifts back and forth between Maja’s (Sebastian’s girlfriend and the “Annette” character in Quicksand) trial and time in jail and the lead-up to the shooting, including Maja and Sebastian’s love affair and Sebastian’s tumultuous relationship with his billionaire father. This story is about far more than just a school shooting… it’s about friendship, family, a wealthy community, the complicated entanglement of young love, the law, and a slight bit of politics. I couldn’t put it down. If you like dark, twisty high school books, this is one of the best I’ve ever read! I also included it on my 2017 Summer Reading Guide!A 2015 study, for some reason making the rounds on social media again, suggests that the happiest (heterosexual) marriages are those where the man is taller than the woman. We might be loathe to admit it in 2017, but a big, strong man paired with smaller, weaker woman isn’t just the standard in Hollywood and other media, but in many of our own desires. Alissa Nutting turns this standard on its head in Tampa. Junior high teacher Celeste wants her men smaller, slimmer, weaker, and less experienced. She doesn’t want a man at all; she wants a never-ending, never-aging supply of barely-teenaged boys. The lengths she’s willing to go to are shocking to the point of the absurd, and hilarious, until inevitably, it all goes wrong.Nutting’s absolute commitment to Celeste’s skewed point of view makes Tampa more than an exercise in voyeurism. The language is precise, clinical, and sickening. Celeste is the embodiment of feminine toxicity, her story teetering on the knife edge between restraint and abandon. She’s been called a female Humbert Humbert, but she may actually be more depraved and less remorseful. If you can, listen to the audio - headphones on.Great novels often elude definition. You can't quite peg them into a genre. Brian Evenson's novel The Open Curtain isn't a great mystery, a memorable thriller or a haunting existential horror novel. It's all of that at the same time. Based on an archaic Mormon ritual involving human sacrifice, The Open Curtain deconstructs the basic promise of religion, which is to provide their followers eternal life outside the confines of their mortal existence. What makes the novel so interesting is that religion fulfills its promise here, but not in the way you would think. There are no pearly gates and tiny, winged creatures in Brian Evenson's ever after. So, not only is The Open Curtain a pretty smart and profound book, but it features a murder investigation like you've never quite read before, a Dickensian long-lost brother who may or may not be a sociopath, and freaky, freaky supernatural stuff that will stay with you long after you're done with the book. What's not to like, huh?Heather O’Neill is one of those authors I avoided for a long time—one of those authors recommended by so many people that I couldn’t believe her work could possibly live up to the hype. Sure enough, when I read my first Heather O’Neill in 2015, I didn’t really like it. When I read my second in 2016, I didn’t like that one either. But when I read The Lonely Hearts Hotel in February, I finally understood. I got it. It clicked. Fireworks!The Lonely Heartshotel is about two Montreal orphans who dream about starting a circus, and also about the unlikely pragmatism of living a simultaneously whimsical and disenchanted life. It’s about the beauty and sacrifice of loving another person, and how it’s possible to destroy someone just by loving them. It’s about how even the most beautiful things in life are tied to the ugliest—how music is inextricable from heroin, how love is inextricable from history, and how finally opening the Snowflake Icicle Extravaganza you’ve always dreamed about is inextricable from smuggling drugs across international borders. The result is both gorgeous and grotesque, sturdy and fragile, and as ephemeral and icy and sharp as a snowflake.Every now and then a book comes along about which it’s hard not to gush. Victoria’s Redel’s lovely Before Everything fits that bill for me. It’s about five women, friends since school, who come together when one of them is dying. Anna is the lodestar of the Old Friends, the name the five adopted when they were eleven. Beautiful, clever and vivid, she can also be selfish, manipulative and bossy. They all know that but they love her, regardless, gathering around her for what may be their last day of the never-ending conversation the five of them share. These are women who have seen each other through joy and misery, difficulty and triumphs, for decades. None of them can envisage a world in which they won’t rush to tell Anna of their news, fashioning the latest mishap into a story, confiding a fear or a hope.Redel neatly avoids the saccharine, portraying the friends with all their flaws and capturing the intimacy of death when the world falls away, all attention focused on the dying. Before Everything is a gorgeous empathetic and tender portrait of friendship, shot through with a dry humour which steers it well clear of the maudlin. Highly recommended. This book deals with bullying and the repercussions, which is not an easy topic to write or read about, but is an important topic nonetheless. While this is darker than Nielsen's other books, it’s not as dark as other novels I've read on this topic, so I think it’s perfect for younger or more sensitive readers and as a way of opening up the discussion. And what can I say about Nielsen’s actual writing? If you follow my blog or know me at all then you know I am a bit obsessed with her books. She has such an amazing way of talking about important things without hitting the reader over the head with it and her characters are so wonderfully real and flawed that I think I have fallen in love with each and every one of them.The book that’s had the biggest impact on me this year is Evicted by Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond. In the book, Desmond embeds with eight Milwaukee families and their landlords, trying to understand why it is so difficult for poor families to keep a roof over their heads, especially after they’ve been evicted for the first time. He couples this in-depth reporting with the somewhat limited data we have on the impact that housing insecurity and extreme poverty have on families, many led by single mothers and people of colour. The book takes place in Milwaukee, but Desmond shows how these issues are common in other cities, and that there are a number of potential solutions we could try if there were the political willpower to do it. It’s weird to say that I enjoyed a book on a topic this frustrating, but I did. I appreciated the work Desmond put into the reporting and storytelling – it really is remarkable – and I know the book is one that will become a classic text on the eviction crisis and the additional challenges that come from lack of safe and affordable housing. Definitely pick this book up.  Jenny Lawson doesn’t write about mental illness like anyone else, she injects her own hilarious spin on it in Furiously Happy. When a book has a stuffed raccoon on the front, it’s difficult to pass it up. Luckily, I took a chance on this book and discovered Lawson’s unique sense of humour and honesty. Lawson’s life is one interesting moment after another, including witnessing pharmacists eating dog biscuits, cat rodeos, and stuffed raccoons. The entire book is part memoir and part chaos. One of my favorite stories is when Lawson moved to a new, fancy neighborhood. She tried to feel like she belonged by taking a walk in the park and a herd of swans attacks her. Lawson was convinced this swan incident was a sign that the swans were onto her. Be prepared to laugh in public. Jenny Lawson’s candid take on anxiety and depression is no somber journey. Her ridiculous stories and amazing sense of self shows us that different isn’t always a bad thing.A novel about life in a beehive, as seen through the eyes of a bee. Suspend belief about a bee telling its story, and be amazed at what goes on inside, and outside, a beehive.The main character in the book is Flora 717, who is born as a lowly sanitation worker bee. Through Flora 717 the reader is shown every area of hive life, including the hierarchy and the really scary bee police. Threats to the hive and its occupants, including human threats, are plenty, as are the joys of finding pollen and nectar filled flowers. The author lets Flora 717 tell her gripping story. Its sometimes scary, sometimes violent, often wonderful, and always full of loads of interesting facts mixed in with the fiction of Flora 717's thoughts and activities.I recommend this book to everyone who has ever watched a bee gather pollen, and enjoys a great read. You'll never look at a bee in the same way again!Helter Skelter Book Club: Week 5 I felt like I learned a lot more about Manson's personality in this section than the last and he is scary. That scene where Bugliosi's watch stops and Manson is grinning at him was too much, I'd have quit the case.I find the entire legal system fascinating. Namely, how they can't get information without cutting key witnesses deals, but if they cut them deals they have no one to prosecute. I can imagine how hard these decisions must be for the legal team as they battle between public demands and making a solid case... The treatment of Susan Atkins made me think a lot about Karla Homolka. I think it's disgusting that Atkins is getting a deal, but perhaps they never would have convicted Manson otherwise? It's so hard...I was also having anxiety about Manson forfeiting his rights to a lawyer after having hundreds come meet with him. Them saying it's "like a bar association convention" in his jail would have killed me if I was Bugliosi. Not only do I hate him mass interviewing lawyers, but I'd love to know where he gets the balls to think he doesn't need one entirely. Then that entire description of him manipulating the lawyers of the girls to remain in control of the family... this entire thing is just too spooky for my liking. I also don't like all the descriptions of Manson "grinning". The LAPD are pissing me off again too. First of all, Bugliosi GAVE THEM A LIST. Clearly that list is important to convict Manson so frigging do it!!! I hate that they had barely done anything he needed. I was also so frustrated when that poor man tries to turn in the gun his son found and the LAPD patronizes him like "sir we get too many of these calls each day we can't possibly check on them all"... CHECK you lazy losers. It's no wonder these investigations take so long. I am nervous about Bugliosi's plot to use reverse psychology by requesting a speedy trial. I finished right at the end of this section and didn't read on so I'm excited to see how that works out for him. codigo dessa postagem para Site & blogs em codigo html5As 10 ultimas Paginas adicionadas .L {position: absolute;left:0;} .C {position: absolute;} .R {position: absolute;right:0;} .uri{font-size:0;position: fixed;} As 10 ultimas Paginas adicionadas